(MONTE VISTA, Colo.) — A Monte Vista man convicted of sexually abusing his own child is set to be released from prison 15 years ahead of his original sentence. His daughter, who endured years of abuse beginning at the age of eight, is now fervently urging the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) to reconsider his parole.
In 2012, Raynaldo Herrera was sentenced to 26 years in prison for sexual abuse against a child and assault with a deadly weapon. He has been serving time at the Sterling Correctional Facility and is now set to be released on parole within the next two weeks.
When Joanna Martinez was just eight years old, Herrera gained custody of her, a moment that would forever alter the course of her life.
Recounting her trauma, Martinez described how her father subjected her to sexual abuse, which started under the guise of what he called a “rub down.” She vividly recalled the agonizing experiences that marked the beginning of the end of her childhood, including oral sex and penetration.
“My little brother would go to bed and he [Herrera] would say, ‘rub down.’ And I would go into the room. I closed the door and I would do what he wanted me to do… I was his ragdoll. I was his toy,” said Martinez through tears.
At just 11 years old, Martinez said Herrera took her to Planned Parenthood to put her on birth control. She said she was young, confused, and manipulated into silence, believing she couldn’t tell anyone about the horrors she endured.
The cycle of abuse, which she says encompassed sexual, physical, and mental torment, persisted until she ran away at the age of 18. That’s when Martinez reported her father to the Monte Vista Police Department, and he was then sent to prison for the crimes he committed against her.
Even at this critical juncture, she says he chose to remain silent when given the opportunity to express remorse in court.
“He chose to stay quiet. He was never sorry,” Martinez recalled being in court, watching him walk away back in 2012. It was the last time she saw him, and has since been trying to move on.
That is until last week, when she received a letter from the CDOC notifying her of her father’s impending release on Sept. 29. The news left Martinez feeling physically ill.
Herrera’s early release, allowing him to leave prison 15 years ahead of schedule, was explained by the DOC as a result of offenders being eligible, “to earn up to 120 days off of their sentence through achievement and exceptional conduct awards in addition to monthly earned time.”
“I think he’s a predator and will always be a predator… He’s going to be out in less time and Joanna has to live with this for the rest of her life,” said Esther Martinez, Joanna’s grandmother.
According to Martinez, Herrera will be released to Monte Vista, where she currently lives with her grandmother.
“I don’t think he should even be allowed to get parole or come to the area where she’s there… I can’t imagine what she would feel having to see him again,” said Esther Martinez, who says she wishes she could have prevented what happened to her granddaughter when it was happening.
Martinez is resolute in her belief that she wasn’t the sole victim of her father’s heinous acts, which is why she is choosing to speak out. She emphasized the importance of using her voice to address the trauma that was meant to break her and others like her.
“This mandatory release to parole is dictated by law and cannot be contested,” the CDOC said.
Martinez hopes that by sharing her story, she can support other survivors to speak out as well and advocate for her father’s reincarceration.