Local News

Jesica Santillan's Father Faces Disputed Criminal Charges

Posted April 14, 2003

— The story of Jesica Santillan, who died in February from complications in a heart-lung transplant mistake at Duke University Medical Center, was well-documented.

Her parents were caught in the local news spotlight again over the weekend.

Jesica's father, Melecio Marentes, faces criminal charges for allegedly assaulting her mother, Magdalena Santillan. Both parents claim the charges are unwarranted, stemming from a misunderstanding and poor translation of events.

Though they still grieve over the death of Jesica, Magdalena and Melecio said that wasn't the cause of an argument March 16.

"It's just like any other couple has problems and has arguments," Magdalena said.

The argument led to Melecio going to jail, even though eye witness Juan Rodriguez said Melecio never touched his wife.

"He didn't hit her," Rodriquez said. "She just pushed him a little bit because she was angry."

She apparently was angry enough to ask Connie Waters to help her speak to Louisburg police about detaining her husband. Waters is an advocate for battered women and operates a shelter in Louisburg.

Waters handled the paper work that put Melecio in jail.

"She told me I'm going to put down that he pushed you," Magdalena said, "so that he can be arrested."

Waters also served as the court interpreter when Melecio was arraigned.

Magdalena reportedly began to suspect Waters was misinterpreting her words. So she brought a recorder to a meeting with assistant district attorney Thomas Clifton.

A transcript of the recording shows Waters asking Magdalena if her husband was drinking the night of the argument.

Magdalena said her husband drank a little -- "un poco," as it appears on the transcript. Waters interpreted that as Melecio being drunk.

Elsewhere, Waters left the impression Melecio pushed his wife.

"In crystal clear terms, Magdalena says she didn't get pushed," family attorney Frank Cassiano said. "She wasn't threatened. She wasn't hit, and she wants the charges dropped.

"That's not at all what came through in the interpretation."

Cassiano said he wants the charges dismissed for lack of evidence.

Magdalena, meanwhile, said she never expected it all to come to this.

"Yes, I regret it," she said, "because it's just created more problems just because I was angry."

Waters wasn't available for comment over the weekend. Melecio is scheduled for criminal court June 24.

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