Crime photos mistakenly released
Appeal Staff Writer
Photos of evidence in a starvation case involving two Carson City children were broadcast by Sacramento and Reno television stations when the pictures were accidentally released by the Carson City Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Kenny Furlong said a computer disk given to Sacramento’s News10 on Monday contained about two dozen photographs of the interior of a Como Street apartment in which two children were allegedly held captive for years by their grandmother, mother and stepfather.
Photographs of the children were not on the disk.
News10 reporter George Warren said he expected to find police mugshots of suspects Regina Rios, Tomas Granados and Esther Rios when he collected the disk from the front counter of the Sheriff’s Department.
Instead, the disk held photographs of the apartment’s interior taken during a search. The disk with evidence photos had been copied by a technician. His supervisors thought he was making a copy of the disk with mugshots.
The evidence photos show two worn blankets believed to be the only bedding used by the 16-year-old and 11-year-old victims, a bowl on the sink which held two spoons and the remnants of dried food, and a well-stocked refrigerator with a drawer full of bologna.
Warren said he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to get the evidence photos.
“I just thought this was a remarkable example of how cooperative the law enforcement is in Carson City. When I saw those pictures I thought, wow, we were being shown how horrific the conditions were,” he said. “We didn’t feel the pictures that we showed were nearly as prejudicial as comparing children to Holocaust survivors.”
At a press conference at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, News10 shared its satellite truck with Reno station KOLO TV. Both are ABC network affiliates, and the Reno station got copies of the photographs. It aired several on Tuesday’s evening broadcast.
“Those photos were not to be released. They don’t do anything but make it more difficult for the prosecutors,” Furlong said. He said Ed Pearce of KOLO TV called him Tuesday to say the station had the photos and was going to use them, and “I told Channel 8 that we didn’t want those to air and they did anyway.”
Pearce said when he spoke with the sheriff Tuesday morning it was a courtesy to let him know the photos would be broadcast.
“He said he understood,” Pearce said. “At no point did he ask me not to run them, at no point did anyone ask us not to run them. If they had it would have been a decision for my boss.”
Furlong said he is to blame for the accidental release.
“This one is not a horrendous mistake. It’s not a game breaker, but its certainly not something that I’m proud of,” he said. “It is our responsibility to control the information and we failed to control it and I take the blame.”
— Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.