Inmate released to spend last days with family
From jail, Phillip Chavez called his son, Marcellino, to tell him he had to go to Placerville so a doctor could examine what he thought was a hernia.
Days later, Chavez’s public defender, Simon Harvey, called Marcellino and told him his 47-year-old father had inoperable liver cancer.
Harvey immediately filed an emergency motion requesting Chavez’s early release from the El Dorado County Jail at South Lake Tahoe. Chavez had been sentenced to two years in jail for threatening his landlord.
El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Jerald Lasarow granted the motion Thursday, the first day it was presented in court.
“I think it was the right thing to do,” Harvey said. “I think Judge Lasarow showed that he can be compassionate in the right circumstances. He didn’t want Phillip to die in jail after it became clear it was terminal.”
Chavez was able to spend Thursday night eating what ice cream he could stomach and watching movies at his son’s house. He was rushed to Barton Memorial Hospital Friday afternoon.
His liver and kidneys failed on Saturday. On Sunday, Chavez gradually slipped into a wide and glassy-eyed coma. But at 8 a.m. he broke from the trance and sat up and kissed his son. Marcellino and his wife had been by his side since the hospital called at 4 a.m. Chavez died surrounded by family and friends on Sunday at 2:50 p.m.
Chavez had been serving the 14th month of a two-year sentence when he was diagnosed with cancer. A judge gave Chavez a stiff sentence for threatening the landlord because of his prior criminal record from when he was younger and living in Los Angeles.
“He thought his sentence was crap,” Marcellino said. “He’s from Los Angeles. There they don’t bother with the petty stuff.”
Chavez moved to South Lake Tahoe 15 years ago. He told his son that the lake and the healthy living were like drug counseling.
Six years ago, Marcellino moved from Los Angeles to South Lake Tahoe to be with his father. The 25-year-old said the move, which was at his father’s urging, kept him out of gangs and saved his life.
“He looked out for me and straightened me out,” Marcellino said. “He didn’t want that life for me. He said ‘When you’re tired I always be here for you.’ “
Marcellino said outspoken is the word that best describes his father.
“He was a good debater. If you threw him on CNN he’d roll half those guys.”
He also described him as a “bull, real stocky,” who liked to workout in a gym and get behind a stove and cook whenever he could.
Chavez is survived by Marcellino Chavez, two brothers, a sister and three grandchildren. Marcellino and his wife, Araceli, are expecting a child in October.
A wake will be held for Phillip Chavez at McFarlane Mortuary on Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Friday, a funeral is planned at St. Theresa Catholic Church.
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