Student, teacher case investigated by Yuba Sheriff’s Office
Special to The Union
Though Yuba County Probation has finished its investigation into possible inappropriate contact between a Juvenile Hall teacher and student, the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the matter.
The Yuba County Office of Education received a report of a possible relationship between a student and teacher in late March, according to Marysville Appeal-Democrat archives, and forwarded the information to law enforcement. Yuba County Probation investigated the matter and on April 4, turned over the mandatory Prison Rape Elimination Act report to its Human Resources Department and County Counsel for review, Chief Probation Officer Jim Arnold said in an email Wednesday.
Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed in 2003 by Congress and its purpose is to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in federal, state and local confinement, according to its website.
No details have been provided regarding the teacher’s identity or the extent of relationship with the student. Cindy Sutfin, director of Human Resources for the Yuba County Office of Education, said the teacher is still employed with the Office of Education, at least through the end of the year, per a contract.
After learning that Yuba County Probation’s investigation into the matter was administrative, Sutfin felt it was her obligation to report the allegation to law enforcement for criminal investigation, she said Tuesday.
The Yuba County Sheriff’s Office received official referral of the matter on Monday, department spokesperson Leslie Carbah said.
“… We have opened a criminal investigation to look into whether there was a crime committed while he was a juvenile, in the hall,” Carbah wrote in an email Tuesday. “Although it falls in the city of Marysville, we handle the jurisdiction for any criminal investigations at the hall, so now that it was officially referred to us, we are investigating the matter.”
After receiving an anonymous tip earlier this month regarding an alleged romantic relationship between a Yuba County Office of Education teacher and an incarcerated teenage student convicted of murder, the Appeal-Democrat found public documents showing a juvenile hall teacher married a teen that had recently been incarcerated in juvenile hall for murder.
According to a marriage license/certificate, Heather Frey, 41, of Chico, and Joseph D. Echevarria, 18, married Feb. 23 in Yuba County. Echevarria was moved from juvenile hall to Yuba County Jail in December when a judge ruled that his case be transferred to adult court; he was 17 at the time of the murder.
It was confirmed earlier this month with Sutfin that Frey has been a teacher at the Harry P. Carden School in the Yuba-Sutter Juvenile Hall in Marysville since August 2018. She is an employee of the Office of Education, not Yuba County Probation, and no officials have confirmed that she is the teacher being investigated.
Echevarria was 17 when the murder he is charged with occurred. He turned 18 in November while in custody of juvenile hall. He was sentenced as an adult on a charge of voluntary manslaughter and engaging in the activities of a criminal street gang.
Echevarria was arrested for the shooting death of 23-year-old Jose Guadalupe Zuniga-Juache in Olivehurst on April 26, 2018. Zuniga-Juache had been riding his bicycle when he was gunned down, according to Appeal-Democrat archives. Three others — Christopher G. Garcia, Sean M. Couch Jr., and Alex J. Ruiz — pleaded no contest to assault with a firearm and admitted to a gang enhancement in September. Garcia is scheduled for sentencing in June. Ruiz and Couch were sentenced to five years’ formal probation.
Echevarria pleaded no contest and was sentenced Feb. 26 — three days after his marriage to Frey — to 21 years and eight months in state prison.
On Dec. 10, Echevarria made his first appearance in adult court, Appeal-Democrat archives show; a Yuba County judge found him not fit for juvenile court and transferred his case to adult court, where Echevarria pleaded no contest.
The Appeal-Democrat confirmed the identity of Echevarria by cross-referencing the marriage with court records confirming the same date of birth and middle name. The Yuba County Office of Education confirmed that Frey’s middle initial is “G” — the same as recorded on the marriage license. According to Transparent California (an online database of state salaries and pensions), Frey was a secretary/tutor for the Glenn County Office of Education in 2015 and 2016.
Echevarria is incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records show.
Rachel Rosenbaum writes for the Marysville Appeal Democrat. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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