Rochester man charged in hatchet murder back in custody after ‘Less is More’ release

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — According to authorities, a Rochester man who was in custody awaiting prosecution was released from Monroe County Jail on Tuesday as a result of the new “Less is More” law.

Joseph Rivera, 21, is facing a second-degree murder charge for the killing of Heather Majors, who died from her injuries after being brutally attacked with a hatchet. The 47-year-old victim was attacked in her apartment on July 10. Rivera, who had multiple parole violations, was identified as a suspect during the investigation and remanded into custody until December.

Rochester’s Major Crime Investigators said they were completely unaware of Rivera’s release and later requested the U.S. Marshals Violent Felony Fugitive Task Force to find the suspect and arrest him again. Rivera was eventually found on Eastman Avenue around 7 p.m. Tuesday and brought back into custody.

The Monroe County Police Chiefs Association said Rivera was among 17 people released from the Monroe County Jail Tuesday as part of “Less is More.” The law, signed Friday, eliminates jail time for most nonviolent parole violations.

Beginning in March, people on parole will no longer be jailed for technical parole violations, such as being late to a parole appointment, missing curfew, or failing to inform a parole officer of a job change. It is not immediately clear how Rivera was released, as he does not appear eligible to qualify.

Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode, who is president of the Monroe County Police Chiefs Association, said 22 people in the Monroe County Jail were ordered to be released under the new law. Of that 22, five stayed in jail on what he called “unrelated charges.”

“These are all little rules that we put in place to keep them on a straight and narrow lifestyle,” VanBrederode said of the violations. “We have found that when they start to violate those technical violations, they end up going off and getting themselves rearrested.”

VanBrederode went on to claim jailing people on parole for committing technical violations was in fact effective in preventing people from being jailed. “Those technical violations were a very good tool to keep them straight and keep them honest and keep them out of jail,” he said.

“When somebody starts testing positive for drugs, when they start staying out until 11 o’clock at night, they’re heading down the wrong path. The whole purpose of those technical violations was to kind of wake them up, say ‘Hey, stop what you’re doing. We’re going to hold you in custody for a week, two weeks, to kind of drive home that discipline issue.’”

VanBrederode said the local police chiefs were not told about the law or its effect until after it was signed. He said some of the people released under the law were involved in active investigations. “If we knew this was coming, we could lodge charges before they were released,” he said.

Watch a full press briefing from the Monroe County police chiefs below:

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