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Domestic violence survivor says the system failed her family

Esperanza Delgado says poor communication between state agencies cost her and her daughters everything.

NEW ORLEANS — Eyewitness News told you Esperanza Delgado's story last year. She and her two daughters were forced to flee the city after her violent ex was released from prison. 

Well, Esperanza's story continues, as she and her two daughters fight the system which she says failed her, costing her her freedom, her home, job and more than $100,000.

“I’m not just a number, I’m not just a name, I’m not just a piece of paper, this situation wrecked my life 10 years ago and I am currently being wrecked by it now,” Esperanza said.

When she first told her story she asked we conceal her identity. Now, she wants the world to know who she is.

“I am tired of keeping quiet about it, I am tired of running, I am tired of hiding, I am mentally and emotionally drained and exhausted by this.”

Esperanza’s world began to unravel in 2008 when the Jefferson Parish DA says her then-partner Jeffrey Cruz strangled and kidnapped her. After serving a six-month sentence, documents show he stole Esperanza’s car, led police on a chase, and resisted arrest. 

He was in and out of jail until 2011, when his behavior became more violent. The sheriff says Cruz chased down Esperanza as she drove away from a store, rammed her car, and then shot at her with their baby in the back seat.

 He was sentenced to 10 years. Then in 2014, he escaped from LaSalle Correctional Center, and another four years were added to his sentence.

“The violence that just escalated so fast, from being shot at, to being kidnapped and being in the back of the trunk…. That’s something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

According to the Department of Corrections, Cruz was released three years early on good behavior serving 11 years of his 14-year sentence

While good behavior in jail routinely results in a reduced sentence, Esperanza says Cruz should not have been eligible for that.

According to Louisiana law, a crime of violence is an offense that puts someone in serious danger, anyone who’s second offense is defined as a crime of violence isn’t eligible for parole.

Legal expert, Dane Ciolino says he can’t say why Cruz was given good time considering the charges he faced. But says DOC gets to determine who’s eligible for good time.

“The legislature has decided that some offences and repeat offenders are so bad there is no eligibility for good time," Ciolino said. “It really difficult if not impossible to look at an offender before you if you're a judge and see the future and see whether this is a person going to come out of jail a better person or a person who is going to come out of jail and offend again.”

According to DOC, Cruz completed his 10-year sentence for aggravated criminal damage and assault by drive-by shooting. The department says he then served time for simple escape and criminal conspiracy to commit simple escape. He received good time on this sentence as this is not deemed as a violent crime.

“I feel like my rights as a victim in Louisiana have been stripped from me and given to him,” Esperanza said.

She was notified of Cruz’s release only a week before he was freed. Fearing she could once again become a victim, she and her daughters left town.   Something she says was completely unnecessary

Department of Public Safety & Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick said in part that “Jeffry Cruz informed his parole officer that he would like to move to South Carolina. The state initiated the transfer procedures… Cruz departed Louisiana on August 20.”

Esperanza says no one told her Cruz would be moving out of state, so while she was fleeing the state, so was the man she feared.

“They just didn’t communicate with me that I would have an option to stay. An option not to leave my house, my children’s school, my job, everything I have grown accustomed to and built here.”

We reached out to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, they told me the state of Louisiana did not order Jeffery Cruz to be on GPS. The conditions of supervision for out-of-state offenders. He is not allowed to leave the state without permission. That means the only thing keeping Cruz out of state is his word. Esperanza fears at any moment in time he could come back to Louisiana, and possibly hurt her.

"I have dealt with him a long time ago with very violent situations, to where he would pop an ankle monitor off, he would rip a restraining order or protective order up, a piece of paper and a monitor isn’t nothing to an individual like him," she said.

Sitting down with me in her grandmother’s home, Esperanza’s 15-year-old daughter, who now has an alias and whose identity we’re protecting, says the move shoved her into a whole new environment.

We asked, “What’s that like for a 15-year-old girl?” 

She responded with, “It was really stressful, I wanted to go back home a lot, but I knew we couldn’t because it wasn’t safe, I kinda just sucked it up and dealt with it for a while.”

Esperanza came back to the New Orleans area, during Halloween week. She says she got her old job back, and after being out of work for months, she needed the money. So the decision to return to the New Orleans area was an easy one, but returning to their previous lives is still a struggle.

She says her daughters aren’t allowed back in their former schools. 

Her second-grade daughter attended Ray Saint Pierre Advanced Studies Academy. Now she’s at Isaac Joseph. Her oldest was in the honors program at John Ehret, now she’s in regular classes.

“Jefferson Parish school board should know that this was not my fault nor my children’s fault,” Esparanza said.

The Jefferson Parish School District would not address Esperanza’s daughters directly, citing confidentiality, but said, “We are aware and understand this is a difficult situation for the family involved. The district has and will continue to take the measures necessary to ensure that children residing in Jefferson Parish have full and open access to our public schools. We are further committed to working with all JP families to ensure that their children are enrolled in the appropriate schools and programs within the district.”

“So just give us our life back, I never wanted it taken away in the first place,” Esperanza said. “My kids and my life has been twisted and turned so fast in the hands of these agencies who don’t have a liaison to help us why this is happening.”

She’s calling for state agencies to implement open lines of communication between themselves and the victim. Because their lack of communication she says, caused her life to come crumbling down.

“The reality of it is I will deal with it the rest of my life, my children will deal with it the rest of their life.”

She says her daughters give her the strength to wake up every morning and fight for what she lost.

“As a woman, as a survivor, you grow this strength inside you, that if you got through that you can get through anything.”

And her courageous daughter has her heart set on helping others when she gets older, telling Eyewitness News she wants to “Go to college far away from the south and be a pediatrician.”

We reached out to Cruz’s attorney and never heard back.

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