Teacher, inmate allegedly married
Special to The Union
Public documents indicate a juvenile hall teacher married a teenager recently incarcerated in juvenile hall who is now serving prison time 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 Wednesday with Yuba County Office of Education Human Resources Director Cindy 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.
An anonymous tip to the Appeal-Democrat March 29 alleged that a Yuba County Office of Education teacher is under investigation and has been suspended for having a romantic relationship with an incarcerated teenage student convicted of murder.
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It has not been confirmed that Frey is the subject of that investigation.
Sutfin told the Appeal-Democrat Monday that her office had received a report of a possible relationship between a student and teacher and forwarded the information to law enforcement.
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.
Yuba County Chief Probation Officer Jim Arnold confirmed Monday that a juvenile hall teacher had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, and said the department had been investigating the allegation for about a week. Sutfin did not confirm that Frey is on leave, and said only that she is currently an employee.
No details were provided regarding the teacher’s identity or extent of relationship with the student.
Echevarria was arrested in April 2018 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.
Arnold said he could not confirm the name of the teacher his department is investigating and could not provide any additional information. He did say the inmate in question is no longer incarcerated in juvenile hall.
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.
Yuba County Superintendent of Schools Francisco Reveles said he can’t comment on personnel issues.
“Right now, it’s in the hands of the Probation Department,” he said Wednesday. “Right away we communicated with law enforcement.”
A Facebook message to a relative of Echevarria’s went unreturned Wednesday.
The Harry P.B. Carden Court School is an alternative learning program for incarcerated students at the juvenile hall — 1023 14th St., Marysville. The school’s primary goal is to help students succeed academically and to successfully return to public school upon their release, according to YCOE’s website.
Rachel Rosenbaum writes for the Marysville Appeal Democrat. She can be reached at email@example.com
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