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Special Report- Castroville grandmothers pushing for justice after convicted murder gets parole

CASTROVILLE, Calif. (KION-TV)- Two Monterey County grandmothers are doing they can to keep the man who killed their granddaughter in prison.

For a second time within a calendar year, David Leonardo was granted parole by a parole board.

"It's not fair that he gets to walk the streets and he gets to have freedom," said Connie Hernandez who is one of Priscilla's grandmothers.

READ MORE: Man who killed Castroville toddler in 2011 has been granted parole, DA's office says

On Dec. 3, 2011, David Leonardo beat two-year-old Priscilla Hernandez to death.

Her family relives Priscilla's torture like it was yesterday.

"Everything comes back, it's like living it over and over but we still have to fight for her," said Kora Sombrono who is also Priscilla's grandmother.

Photo of Kora Sombrano visiting her granddaughter's grave in Monterey

Priscilla was learning to use the toilet when she had an accident in her pants while mom was at work and while Leonardo who was her mother's boyfriend at the time was home.

"He claimed he punched her in the stomach," Monterey County Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon said. "But she had injures that indicated that she'd been beaten before."

Leonardo was convicted in 2014 and was sentenced 15 years to life for second-degree murder.

In March 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom overturned the Parole Board's release because in Newsom's words Leonardo failed to demonstrate he understood why he committed the offense.

During a ceremony for Victims of Violent Crimes on Friday, Connie Hernandez who is the other grandmother of Priscilla sat outside the Monterey County Superior Courthouse in Salinas to gather signatures to petition Gov. Newsom to deny his release.

Connie Hernandez was at a ceremony for Victim's of Violent Crimes trying to get signatures for petitions for Governor Newsom to overturn the parole decision of David Leonardo

"To make sure those letters and petitions and everything else out there to keep him in because I would not want him on the streets or anywhere near another child," Sombrano said.

Sombrano and Hernandez are praying the Governor listens to their plea.

"That's one thing I also want the Governor to know, I had to see my granddaughter to come out in a body bag and I'm never going to forget that," Hernandez said.

Data from the CDCR shows there was 1,434 parole grants which was a 14 percent increase from 1,259 grants in 2022.

If you are interested to sign the petition, click here.

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Veronica Macias

Veronica Macias is an evening anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.


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