A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Suspended SRJC student support manager pleads not guilty to all charges

Aryk Copley
Former SRJC student support manager Hilleary Zarate (front) and her lawyer, Amy Chapman, leave the courtroom after entering a not guilty plea at the Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa, Calif. on March 28, 2022.

Santa Rosa Junior College Student Support Manager Hilleary Zarate pleaded not guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance for sale and an enhancement charge for the quantity at the Sonoma County Superior Court Monday.

Santa Rosa Police served a warrant at Zarate’s home in Santa Rosa on Jan. 10 and arrested her for possession of methamphetamine. Zarate’s son, Darrick, was arrested for possession of an unlicensed 9mm “ghost gun.” Rey David Garcia, who police suspect may be Hilleary Zarate’s boyfriend, was also served a warrant and arrested at his home on possession of cocaine and methamphetamine.

The SRJC community was taken by surprise at the charges, with her coworkers and friends describing her as helpful, responsible and reliable.

“I’ve been at the college for 25 years, and I’ve worked with plenty of people who I cannot rely on and I don’t want to work with; but Hilleary is not one of those people,” Rhonda Findling, counselor for MESA, STEM and Second Chance club, said after Zarate’s initial arrest. 

SRPD Sgt. Chris Mahurin said police had initially received tips from the community about Garcia and later connected Zarate to the case. 

“Based on our investigation, we believe she was an active participant in the narcotics trafficking,” Mahurin said.

Zarate has been on paid administrative leave at SRJC since Jan. 11, according to Community Relations Director Erin Bricker. 

Mahurin also noted how strange it was to see a highly-paid and respected SRJC official tied up in narcotics trafficking. Zarate’s salary is $112,062.

Judge John Behnke set a preliminary hearing date for April 21.


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About the Contributors
Aryk Copley
Aryk Copley, Photographer
Aryk Copley (he/they) is an aspiring photojournalist in his second year with The Oak Leaf. After experiencing a brain injury and a subsequent 5-year recovery, Aryk has returned to school with a matured perspective of the world. As a means to cope with the aftereffects of his injury, he developed a passion for photography. Aryk works as a freelance wedding and portrait photographer in the Sonoma County area and maintains a propensity for full-contact weapons fighting, analog film photography, traveling, cinema and thrifting.
Nick Vides
Nick Vides, Photo-Editor
Nicholas “Nick” Vides (he/him) Is a seasoned breaking news reporter dedicated to making sure every shutter click of his camera captures a moment worth sharing. Nick's itch for chasing fires has kept him busy over the past seven years, covering every major fire event in Northern California from the Paradise Fire to the Caldor Fire. Nick currently splits his time as a photojournalist with The Oak Leaf and as a Contract Photographer with The Press Democrat. He has more than nine years of experience with photography, has been director of photography for multiple short films with the SRJC Media Arts Center, directed numerous student-led broadcasts with his Media 19 class, and interned for The Sarah and Vinnie Show on Alice 97.3. In the little free time left, he works for Highway 12 Winery in Sonoma, California as a Cellar Hand.  

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  • S

    Sad StoryApr 21, 2022 at 9:25 am

    The case against Zarate is a big deal. Based on the amount of meth she had in her home, she is looking at up to 10 years in prison. The other concern she has is how much of a connection she has with Garcia and his trafficking, which he is looking down at much more time in jail than 10 years if convicted. How much money she is paid and her status working for a college will not be of any help to her in a court of law. At the very least, even if her lawyer can find a way to keep her out of jail, I see no happy ending with her return to Santa Rosa Junior College. The only way she is going to be able to return to her old life is if somehow the meth can be connected to her Son with the ghost gun charge, which my understanding is he has not be charged with any crime outside the gun. This is a sad situation for someone who has worked hard to grow in her position at the college. What a shame to throw all that away on dope. And the obvious bad choice of a mate.

  • I

    I knew herApr 1, 2022 at 12:08 am

    Homeless tents and meth go hand in hand /
    Thanks Hilaery


  • N

    NunyaMar 30, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    I’m so glad this campus rag is something few read. This reporting is horrible.

  • M

    MaggieMar 30, 2022 at 11:24 am

    Personal opinion not my favorite person. She is beyond rude and disrespectful to students and staff. Annndddd she shouldn’t be on pay leave! The srjc is making a choice and paying her

  • D

    Diane RaposoMar 30, 2022 at 10:01 am

    Why is she being paid? What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  • S

    Star LeivaMar 29, 2022 at 10:25 pm

    To many damn people have the same stigma about drug addicts and dealers. Not all are the same and this is just another case of it. WAKE UP!!