106 county inmates positive of 144 tested, records show

A court filing in the case of a man charged with capital murder reveals that since July 22, at least 74 inmates in the Hidalgo County jail have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Gabino Salinas

The detail is included in a motion for bond reduction for 35-year-old Edinburg resident Gabino Salinas, who is one of four people charged with kidnapping and killing 32-year-old Jose Angel Martinez on Nov. 7, 2017.

Salinas has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges surrounding the allegation and remains in jail on a total of more than $1 million in bonds.

“Positive COVID-19 test results increased despite the jail’s implementation of COVID-19 safety precautions. With the cycling in and out of inmates and jail employees’ shift-work, it should come as not surprise that an ‘outbreak’ at the Hidalgo County Detention Facility emerged,” Salinas’ defense attorney, O. Rene Flores, says in the motion.

Flores filed a Texas Public Information Act request with the county. That response is included as an exhibit to the motion and reveals that since July 22, when the sheriff’s office announced 32 positive cases in the jail, 106 inmates have tested positive while a total of 144 inmates have been tested.

At the time of Flores’ public information request, the jail had an imate population of 1,533, according to the filing.

“Understanding the various and necessary interactions between inmates and jail employees, it is only a matter of time before the infections proliferate that inmate population and more jail employees,” the motion stated.

Because of the virus, Flores says he has been unable to effectively communicate with Salinas — a point numerous attorneys have made on bond reduction requests since the pandemic began.

“An attorney visit to prepare a defense at least during these times requires undersigned counsel to expose himself to the Hidalgo County Detention facility and employees and in turn, COVID-19,” the motion stated.

Salinas had been scheduled for a jury trial Monday, but those are on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A hearing on the motion for bond reduction, as well as other motions, is scheduled for Aug. 31.