Woman Exonerated, Released From Jail – Fresno Bee, 12/16/11
Activist cleared in Parlier Shooting of ex-boyfriend.
A Fresno County community activist whose text "You're dead" implicated her in the attempted murder of her former boyfriend was released from jail Thursday after the charge was dismissed.
Erika Soria, 29, who was caught in a love triangle, faced life in prison if convicted in Fresno County Superior Court, said her attorney, Annette Smurr.
It took prosecutor Chris Walsh digging into evidence to get Soria freed from Fresno County Jail, Smurr said.
"He paid attention to the truth," she said.
In court Thursday, Walsh told Judge Houry Sanderson that he dismissed the attempted murder charge "in the interest of justice."
Police believed Soria was involved in the shooting of her former boyfriend Juan Mercado because it happened in her apartment in Parlier in September.
Though she wasn't home, she had sent text messages to Mercado right before he was shot. Some of messages appear to sound as if she was part of a plot to shoot Mercado, Smurr said.
Identified as a suspect, Soria was booked into jail Oct. 11. According to Smurr, Soria was only trying to warn Mercado. But she had to convince Walsh to take a deeper look at Soria's text messages.
Walsh said Smurr's persistence lead him to get a search warrant for Soria's cell phone. Walsh discovered that the bulk of Soria's text messages shows she was actually trying to warn her former boyfriend, he said.
"On the face of it, she looked like an aider and abetter," Walsh said. "But now we know she was trying to help him."
Before the shooting Soria had never been in trouble with the law, Smurr said.
A former cheerleader at Sanger High, Soria works for the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission helping at-risk youths, Smurr said. She also volunteered with another group that helps the homeless, she said.
Smurr and Soria's mother, Carmen Soria, said an unusual series of events lead to Soria's arrest.
Soria and Juan Mercado have two children. But once he lost his job as a truck dispatcher, he started to use drugs, and they broke up about 1 1/2 years later. He later became homeless and started dating a woman whose husband was in prison, Smurr said.
Smurr said the woman's husband is Alfred Moreno. On the streets, dating a woman whose husband or boyfriend is in prison is a "no-no," she said. Erika Soria didn't get involved in Mercado's business, but she did allow him to use her apartment when she was not home, her mother said.
On Labor Day weekend, Erika Soria went to Los Angeles for a concert, leaving her children with her mother and allowing Mercado to stay at her apartment, Smurr said. In the early hours of Sept. 4, she got a call from Moreno, Smurr said. Moreno told Soria that Mercado was with his wife at her apartment, Smurr said. That's when Soria began texting her ex-boyfriend, Smurr said. Moreno was arrested a week after the shooting. His trial is pending.
After being released from jail Thursday, Soria was thankful to be free.
"I missed my children and breathing the outside air and seeing the sun," she said. She said her goal now is to write a book and tell others "how easy it is to go to jail just for saying the wrong words."
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