‘He shouldn’t have been released’ Murder victim’s sister responds to her alleged killer’s release as part of parole law

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester Police say a man is now back in jail on a murder charge in connection to a deadly hatchet attack in July, but he was released just hours before being re-arrested, as part of a new state law.

Police charged 21-year-old Joseph Rivera with second-degree murder after they say he stabbed 47-year-old Heather Majors with a hatchet over 30 times back on July 10, she later died days after.

Rivera was taken into custody Tuesday night, but had previously been let out earlier in the day under the state’s "Less Is More" act. The law, which was just recently signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, largely eliminates the practice of incarcerating people for technical parole violations in New York.

He was arraigned in Rochester City Court Wednesday morning.

Here’s the timeline outlined by RPD.

  • July 10, 2021: Heather Majors is found stabbed in her apartment on Chili Avenue.
  • July 12, 2021: Majors dies from her wounds. At some point after her death, police identified Rivera, a parolee, as being a suspect.
  • July 21, 2021: A violation of parole warrant was issued against Rivera for violating multiple conditions of his court-order parole supervision.
  • July 22: 2021: Parole officers find and arrest Rivera at Rochester’s "Tent City." Major Crimes investigators say at this time they were in contact with parole in relation to Rivera’s suspected connection to the murder.
  • Continued: Decision is made to hold Rivera in jail until December 2021 as investigators worked to prepare for prosecution. New York State Parole is told Rivera was going to be charged with murder prior to his planned December release.
  • Tuesday: Around 10 a.m., investigators were told by parole, unknown to the office, Rivera was released from jail at 9 a.m. He was released under the law.
  • (Continued) After learning of his release, investigators reached out to the United States Marshals Violent Felony Fugitive Task Force and asked them to find Rivera and take him back into custody. Around 7 p.m. Tuesday, he was picked up on Eastman Avenue in the city, without incident.

News10NBC’s Raven Brown spoke to Jessica Majors, Heather’s sister at court Wednesday morning.

He shouldn’t have been released, he killed my sister like an animal and he’s 21-years-old," Majors said. "And if he could be that brutal, commit that brutal of a crime at 21 he doesn’t need to be out."

The less is more law drew the concern of law enforcement leaders Tuesday, when they said 17 people in the Monroe County Jail for violating parole were let out, with no warning to police. Five are still being held on other charges. Parolee advocates, however, said the new law actually enhances public safety as it uses a provision called "earned time credits "where people who comply with the rules of parole can earn early discharge.

As for Rivera, the court will not set bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next Monday at 10:30 a.m.