Murder suspect released under NY’s parole reform law, re-arrested hours later

A New York state man suspected in a July murder was released from custody under a new parole reform law signed last week by Gov. Kathy Hochul, police said.

Joseph Rivera, 21, was charged with second-degree murder in the July 10 hatchet attack that left Heather Majors, 47, with more than 30 stab wounds. She died two days later, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

The parolee was identified as a possible suspect in Majors’ grisly murder later that month and was picked up by cops on July 21 for alleged violations of his parole conditions, Capt. Frank Umbrino said.

Cops and Monroe County prosecutors had intended to file murder charges against Rivera before his mid-December expected release date, but he was sprung from custody early Tuesday as a result of Hochul’s “Less Is More Act” ahead of him being formally charged, Umbrino told the newspaper.

Joseph Rivera 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.

The parole reform bill, signed into law on Friday, removes technical violations like being late for an appointment or finding alcohol or drugs in urine samples as a reason for reincarceration.

“Our fellow New Yorkers on parole deserve to reenter society with our support and respect — reincarcerating parolees for technical violations traps them and doesn’t help our communities,” Hochul said in a statement when signing the bill into law.

Heather Alberta Majors
Heather Alberta Majors

The new law will also speed up the time frame for judicial review of any parole violations and would grant time off parole sentences for good behavior, leading Republican leaders in the state Legislature to slam the move — which came amid ongoing chaos at Rikers Island, where 11 deaths have been reported this year.

Rivera, meanwhile, was re-arrested by US Marshals in Rochester some 10 hours after he was released Tuesday, Umbrino said. He pleaded not guilty to murdering Majors early Wednesday and was ordered held at the Monroe County Jail without bail.

Rivera is due back in court Monday for a preliminary hearing, according to the newspaper.

Majors’ mother said her daughter was sleeping at a boarding house when someone stormed into her room and attacked her with a hatchet. Melanie Majors said her daughter’s slaying came amid a “weird combination of things that should never have happened,” she told the newspaper.

“She didn’t deserve any of this,” Melanie Majors said.

The woman’s sister said after Rivera’s arraignment that the accused killer had no business being set free. He was one of 17 people in the Monroe County Jail for violating their parole who were sprung without police being warned, WHEC reported.

“He shouldn’t have been released,” Jessica Majors told the station outside court. “He killed my sister like an animal. He’s 21 years old, and if he could be that brutal, commit that brutal of a crime at 21, he doesn’t need to be out.”

A message seeking comment from Hochul’s office was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.