A Modesto woman convicted in the 2007 torture of an 18-year-old has been found suitable for parole, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office reported Monday.
Graciela Elmira Cervantes, now 37, kidnapped the teen from her home on June 24 of that year by grabbing her by the hair and forcing her into a van, the DA’s Office said in a news release. At the time of the crime, Sheriff’s Department spokesman Deputy Royjindar Singh said the women were acquainted.
During the abduction, Cervantes repeatedly hit the victim — referred to as Jane Doe in the DA’s news release — on the head and face.
According to authorities at the time, Cervantes was “bent on revenge” after the teen, described as a runaway, took the woman’s truck without permission.
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The victim was held captive for two days at Cervantes’ apartment in the 2300 block of La Paz Court near Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.
In a bedroom there, Cervantes continued to beat Jane Doe, burned her with cigarettes, cut the webbing of one hand between her thumb and index finger with scissors, forced her to lick her blood from the ground, shaved off her hair and eyebrows, and locked her into a closet, the DA’s office reported.
Cervantes let two men rape Jane Doe on two separate occasions. Each time, she told the victim she’d be killed if she did not cooperate with the sex acts.
Cervantes also forced Jane Doe to cook and clean for her and her three children, who were present in the house. To make money to support a methamphetamine habit, Cervantes also tried to sell Jane Doe for sex to other men in Stockton.
On June 26, the victim escaped by running from Cervantes’ car to an E.&J. Gallo Winery security guard station she’d spotted on Santa Cruz Avenue.
Cervantes was arrested in August 2007, one week before her 26th birthday. She was convicted on Oct. 24, 2008, and sentenced to life in prison.
Since her incarceration, though, the state Legislature amended the Penal Code several times, requiring the Board of Parole Hearings to review parole suitability of any prisoner who was under 26 at the time of the offense.
“Despite the outrageous nature of the crime,” the DA’s news release says, “the board is now required to give ‘great weight’ to the diminished culpability of inmates who were under age 26 at the time of their crimes when deciding whether to grant parole. The details of the criminal offenses that sent that inmate to prison are no longer the deciding factor.”
Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz argued against parole, citing the heinous and sadistic torture Cervantes inflicted on the victim and her misconduct since being incarcerated, including two fights.
But the commissioners noted the last misconduct was seven years ago and said they believed Cervantes has shown sincere remorse for her actions, the news release said. The board also called her impulsiveness and recklessness a “hallmark feature of youth.”
State parole officials have 120 days to review the decision. Then, the Governor’s Office will review Cervantes’ case and determine whether to uphold, overturn or modify the state parole board’s decision.