3 New Mexico women arrested, accused of torturing disabled woman
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In March, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham made a surprise announcement, launching a widespread investigation into the agencies caring for people with developmental disabilities.
Now, three women are facing charges in the death of a disabled woman.
38-year-old Mary Melero died at a hospital in El Paso. She was taken there in late February after Border Patrol agents found her at the U.S./Mexico border with infected sores and open wounds all over her body.
After a lengthy investigation, officials said three women are responsible for abusing and neglecting Melero – ultimately leading to her death.
Angelita Chacon was Melero’s caretaker through a state program over the last three years. The Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program is intended to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
When questioned by Border Patrol agents, she said they needed to take Melero to Mexico for medical treatment.
Agents then inspected the van at the border, where they found Melero in the back, on the floor, according to court documents.
“When they tried to talk to Mary, she was unresponsive,” Attorney General Raúl Torrez said during a news conference Thursday. “She was nonverbal. The only thing she could manage to do in the presence of these officers was to cry.”
Investigators said her injuries were chronic. They also said she was drugged with Benadryl and dehydrated when they found her.
After Melero was taken to the University Medical Center in El Paso, she suffered from a heart attack and doctors diagnosed her with septic shock. She died on April 7.
“The abuse and neglect that she endured was horrific and the injuries she sustained are among the worst I have seen in my career as a prosecutor,” Torrez said. “This was torture. There’s really no other word for it.”
Torrez called for action from the Legislature and reform for the government program that Chacon worked under as a caretaker.
Chacon, Patricia Hurtado, and Luz Scott are all facing charges in this case. Hurtado is reportedly Chacon’s girlfriend, according to authorities.
Chacon is facing numerous charges, including abuse resulting in death and false imprisonment. Hurtado is facing similar charges.
Scott allegedly helped and provided the vehicle that transported the victim through the state. She is also charged with false imprisonment.
Chacon and Hurtado were contracted with At Home Advocacy to provide care for Melero and were receiving approximately $5,000 a month, under the waiver program, to care for the victim.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released the following statement:
“Today, I applaud Attorney General Raúl Torrez and law enforcement for their quick action and coordination that led to this first step toward justice for the victim. As I have said before, abuse by those responsible for caring for the most vulnerable among us will not stand. Every New Mexican deserves to live with dignity, respect, safety, and a high quality of life, and anyone who infringes upon those rights will be held to full account.”