Gov. Newsom denies parole for ex-Mexican Mafia hitman Rene ‘Boxer’ Enriquez
SACRAMENTO — For the fourth time since 2014, the California governor’s office has stepped in to prevent a former Mexican Mafia leader who has renounced his past from seeing the light of day.
In a three-page letter issued April 12, Gov. Gavin Newsom denied parole for Rene “Boxer” Enriquez, 56, overturning a decision by the state’s parole board in December. Enriquez has been granted parole four times since 2014, but each time the governor’s office has blocked his release.
Newsom’s letter notes Enriquez’s cooperation with law enforcement and involvement in rehabilitation programs but says he still considers Enriquez “dangerous.”
“I encourage him to continue down this path of self-development and insight,” Newsom wrote. “However, given his current risk to public safety, I am not prepared to approve his release.”
The family of a woman Enriquez was convicted of killing had asked that he remain in prison and questioned the sincerity of his break from organized crime.
Enriquez’s next chance for freedom will be on June 2020, when he’s to go back before the parole board. At his December hearing, Enriquez told the board “I do not deserve parole” in light of the irrevocable harm he has caused, but also said he has changed his ways.
“I’ve committed crimes that people are still feeling today. I can never undo that, but I can vow to live my life in a correct manner,” Enriquez said. “I made a commitment to never violate another law, to never harm another soul. I understand the hesitancy. … I ask for your mercy.”
In recent years, Enriquez has said he and his siblings were molested as children, including by his older brother, and cited the anger from that as a reason for joining gangs as a child. He was initiated into a neighborhood gang through a beating at the age of 12.
Enriquez, now considered an expert witness on gangs who has helped teach a class at UC Irvine via Skype, also said he had testified in a federal grand jury hearing for a racketeering case as recently as two weeks before the parole hearing but did not go into detail.
Enriquez, of Los Angeles, was an active gang member for nearly 30 years and joined the exclusive, infamous Mexican Mafia gang in the mid 1980s. In 2003, while serving time in Pelican Bay State Prison for two murders, Enriquez dropped out of the gang and shockingly agreed to testify in federal cases against other Mexican Mafia members.
He is now considered a target for assassination by the Mexican Mafia, a relatively small gang based in Los Angeles that is said to wield influence over tens of thousands of gang members across the country.
In 2015, then-Gov. Jerry Brown cited that as his reason for denying Enriquez parole, saying if he were released it would endanger his family and whatever community he ended up being placed in through a federal witness protection program.
Enriquez also gave detailed statements to federal and state authorities, describing the Mexican Mafia — also known as La Eme — as a sophisticated network of violent criminals who planned hits and laundered money in plain sight. In 2009, with Enriquez’s help and cooperation, Los Angeles-based reporter Chris Blatchford wrote a book called “The Black Hand,” which detailed Enriquez’s life and Mexican Mafia business.
Members of the parole board said his remorse was “sincere and genuine,” and read a list of numerous self-help programs Enriquez has undergone as reasons for granting him parole. His post-release plans were kept confidential.
Enriquez is serving a 20 years-to-life sentence for two murders, and has admitted to participating in a gang rape as a young adult and sexually assaulting a fellow inmate years later. He has also been involved in jail stabbings.
He became eligible for parole in 2004, but also got in trouble that year for a drug-related offense, his most recent rule violation. After several canceled hearings, he was denied parole in 2011, then granted it in 2014, 2016, 2017 and last December. In the past his bids for parole have been supported by some law enforcement officials in Orange County because of his work assisting in Mexican Mafia investigations; though other law enforcement officials in Southern California have opposed parole for him.
Enriquez was convicted of murdering Cynthia Gavaldon and David Gallegos in separate attacks; both allegedly were related to Mexican Mafia business. Enriquez says he ordered Galvadon’s death in 1989 because she was involved in drug sales but underselling them and pocketing the difference, which members of her family deny.
Enriquez said at his December parole hearing that Gallegos was a Mexican Mafia member who had fallen into disfavor with the gang for running from a gunfight. Enriquez and a fellow gang member lured Gallegos to a “drug house,” where they “incapacitated him” with an overdose of heroin and cocaine, then took him to a nearby alley and shot him multiple times. Enriquez said another Mexican Mafia member ordered the hit.
Family members of Gavaldon spoke in opposition to his release, her cousin calling Enriquez a “murder and rapist” with an “abundant, lustful appetite for Satan’s ways.” Her uncle said Gavaldon had been killed over $10 and that Enriquez was “lying” about her being involved in drugs.
“We think he speaks with a split tongue,” Gavaldon’s cousin told the parole board. “His genuineness of remorse and repentance is not there.”