'Screw-up' was behind release of child molester, Merced sheriff says

A Central California sheriff says a “screw-up” led to the mistaken release of an inmate who had pleaded guilty to child molestation.

The Merced Sun-Star reported Thursday that Merced County jailers mistakenly allowed 38-year-old Primitivo Gonzalez to post bail Nov. 22.

Gonzalez had pleaded guilty to repeatedly molesting a 5-year-old girl.

A judge had ordered him held without bail until sentencing, when he faced 35 years to life in prison.

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke says he takes responsibility for the mistaken release and has taken steps to prevent a repeat.

The sheriff defends not making public the man’s release.

He says he believed Gonzalez quickly returned to Mexico and is no longer a threat in Merced County.

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