Hollister crime: Alleged child killer deem incompetent; man’s kidnapping, rape charges dismissed

Ernest Rivas was elected to the San Benito Health Care District

A San Benito County judge has ruled the woman accused of killing
her 19-month-old daughter in November 2008 is incompetent to stand
trial, and authorities will place her at a state mental hospital
until she gets to a point where she is fit to understand the
A San Benito County judge has ruled the woman accused of killing her 19-month-old daughter in November 2008 is incompetent to stand trial, and authorities will place her at a state mental hospital until she gets to a point where she is fit to understand the proceedings.

Following a written recommendation from a doctor who examined 40-year-old county resident Cheryl L. Busch, Judge Steven Sanders at the Thursday afternoon hearing ruled she lacks the necessary competence to stand trial. In early December, Busch’s attorney had requested the evaluation for the woman suspected of shooting her daughter, Donna, with a .357 Magnum on the family’s Shore Road property.

The doctor conducted a “battery of psychological tests” before making the determination, said Gregory LaForge, her attorney and the public defender. She remained at the San Benito County Jail this morning yet and will be sent to a state hospital once bed space becomes available.

At the state hospital, she will go through a trial competency program in which the staff there will try to get her to “a level of competence where she can understand what happens in a court setting,” said LaForge, who cited “privileged communication” with his client in declining to discuss what led him to seek the doctor’s evaluation.

As for the potential time frame for Busch’s stay at a mental hospital?

“It could take weeks. It could take months. It could take years,” LaForge said.

Busch’s next court date is March 4 for a status hearing. It doesn’t necessarily mean she will be in attendance, though. LaForge said the point of such hearings is to ensure “people don’t get lost in the system.”

DA on ruling: ‘She was evaluated, and that’s what the experts say’

District Attorney Candice Hooper said she did not have an opinion on the justification of the ruling to send accused child killer Cheryl L. Busch to a mental hospital because the suspect has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

“No, we just have to wait until they send her back,” said Hooper, who is handling the case for the prosecution. “She was evaluated, and that’s what the experts say.”

Regarding her stay at a mental hospital, Hooper explained that doctors initially will figure out if she needs medication. She then will go on to take part in trial competence classes.

“They try to get her leveled out on medication,” Hooper said.

Hooper stressed how there is no standard for how long such patients can remain at a mental hospital while a court matter is delayed. It will depend on how she responds to the medication and classes, the district attorney said.

Busch has pleaded not guilty to homicide and other related charges for the suspected shooting death in November 2008 of her 19-month-old daughter Donna Busch at their property in the 2300 block of Shore Road.

A judge last week followed a doctor’s recommendation to send Busch to a state mental hospital, where she will stay indefinitely until doctors say she is competent to stand trial and fully understands the proceedings.

Charges dismissed alleging rape, holding woman captive

A judge today ruled there was insufficient evidence for a trial in the case against a 36-year-old man accused of repeatedly raping a woman while holding her hostage over a four-day stretch before her escape.

Roberto Cavillo had been charged on suspicion of nine counts of suspected rape along with other felony allegations in connection with accusations he held the 40-year-old Watsonville woman captive and repeatedly raped her in August.

At today’s preliminary hearing – in which a judge rules where the evidence is sufficient enough – it was determined Cavillo should be released from custody.

Public Defender Gregory LaForge, Cavillo’s attorney, said the suspected victim’s testimony was “replete with inaccuracies.”

Prosecutors in August charged Roberto Cavillo – a Mexican citizen originally booked under his alias, Roberto Carranza – with a total of 14 felony counts and another misdemeanor alleging possession of paraphernalia. Six counts allege rape by force or fear. Another three counts allege rape in concert with force or violence.

Additionally, the charging sheet includes three felony counts alleging oral copulation by force, another for false imprisonment and one more for assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.

Sheriff’s investigators worked with the Watsonville Police Department to arrest Cavillo at a produce company where he had been working. The allegations stem from the span of Aug. 15 to Aug. 17.

According to the sheriff’s office report, the following was suspected of occurring:

Cavillo met with the victim and invited her to a party at his residence on Chittenden Road, near Aromas. Authorities said the two had gone out a couple of times in the past but that there was no indication they had been involved romantically.

Prior to leaving Watsonville, the victim grabbed a bag of personal items to take along, according to authorities. When the two arrived, she reported she was quickly bound and gagged and repeatedly raped over the course of the weekend.

Around 12:45 a.m. Aug. 17, the victim escaped through a window and started walking on Chittenden Road toward Watsonville, the sheriff’s report alleged. A driver stopped after noticing she had looked “distraught and disheveled,” and proceeded to bring her to the Watsonville Police Department. Police detectives there determined, through the help of a sign language translator, that a crime had occurred in San Benito County.

The victim was transported to a Bay Area hospital for treatment and forensic analysis, which authorities allege confirmed she had been sexually assaulted and that it had been done using a knife.

Authorities also learned the identity of the suspect and executed a search warrant of his residence, where authorities found the personal items she had brought to the house.

Hospital board member accused of molesting girl, 16

San Benito Health Care District Board Member Ernest D. Rivas is accused of a molestation charge alleging he kissed a 16-year-old girl in July.

Rivas, 58, had been set for a jury trial after pleading not guilty to the misdemeanor allegation. His attorney and prosecutors were preparing to settle on a lesser charge – which remains on the table – at a Dec. 29 hearing when Rivas fainted in the courtroom and momentarily stopped breathing, confirmed his attorney, Elvira Zaragoza Robinson. Rivas was transported by ambulance to Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, but since then has been released.

“It was set for a jury trial, and we were going to settle it,” Robinson said. “During the settlement, Ernie collapsed. It’s not going to go to trial.”

Rivas declined to comment when reached on his cell phone today.

Elected to his first term on the health care district board in November 2008, Rivas is suspected of kissing the girl on or about July 16 and he was arrested by the Hollister Police Department on Aug. 23, according to records. Rivas was released the following day after paying his $5,000 bail and he later pleaded not guilty to the charge.

If convicted of molestation, Rivas would face a possible sentence of a year in county jail and a fine of up to $5,000, according to the penal code. He also would have to register as a sex offender.

Robinson mentioned how the proposed settlement would involve some kind of battery charge. It’s unclear what other terms might be involved in a potential plea agreement, and Robinson declined to discuss details of the proposal until “we get the disposition.”

That is set to take place at a court hearing Tuesday before Judge Steven Sanders, who had vacated the proceedings Dec. 29.

A misdemeanor conviction, meanwhile, does not restrict Rivas from holding his elected seat on the health care district board. Board President Gordon Machado said Rivas has not indicated whether he intends to step down.

“We’re certainly aware of it and concerned,” Machado said regarding the case.

Rivas has continued to attend some meetings since his arrest in August, Machado confirmed.

Rivas was elected to the five-member board in November 2008 when he, Machado and Nazhat Parveen defeated three other candidates for the available seats.

Rivas had been known for being terminated in 1996 as head of the respiratory department at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, which he sued a year later.