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Sheriff's department arrests early release inmate for homicide
Alexander Valenzuela
Alexander Valenzuela

An inmate released early from a California prison because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been arrested by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department on allegations of murder.

Alexander Valenzuela, 40, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his Modesto home in connection with the death of Joseph Rivera, 46. Rivera was fatally shot Monday night in the 600 block of Bystrum Road.

Sheriff’s officials learned that Valenzuela had been released early from San Quentin prison because of the state accelerated release program due to COVID-19.

On May 29, 2019, Valenzuela was sentenced to 32-months in state prison for being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Valenzuela was granted early release by CDCR on July 27.

“As a law enforcement official tasked with keeping our citizen’s safe, this makes me angry,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse. “Valenzuela was not scheduled to be released until December 13, 2020. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this murder would have been prevented if he would have served his full sentence and not been released early due to COVID-19.”

About one week after Valenzuela's release from prison he was arrested on Aug. 7, on suspicion of delaying/obstructing an officer. His booking charge is currently a zero-bail charge in order to keep jail populations lower during the coronavirus pandemic, so the sheriff’s department released him from custody.

“This system is failing our citizens,” said Dirkse. “Criminals should be behind bars, not released back into the public early. Many of these early release and zero-bail inmates are repeat offenders who continue to victimize law abiding citizens.”

The investigation into this homicide is ongoing. If anyone has information regarding this case, they are encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers or Detective Kamila Sulkowski at (209) 525-7032.

Anyone with information about the case, can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Tipsters can also submit tips at or use the mobile app "P3" and may be eligible for a cash reward.