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

SRJC student support manager Hilleary Zarate sentenced in methamphetamine case

Chelsea Kurnick
Hilleary Zarate listens to her lawyer, Amy Chapman, argue in her defense against Jan. 10, 2022 methamphetamine trafficking charges during a preliminary hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court on March 8, 2023.

Hilleary Zarate, Santa Rosa Junior College student support manager, pled “no contest” to a misdemeanor accessory charge in the methamphetamine trafficking case that led to her and her then-boyfriend’s 2022 arrest.

On July 28, Hon. Judge Robert LaForge sentenced Zarate to 30 days in county jail, 12 months of probation and $220 in fines. As a condition of her sentence, Zarate also agreed to submit to warrantless search and seizures of her home and property at any time. If Zarate is charged with future crimes, her plea in this case could lead to increased penalties.

Zarate worked for SRJC for 17 years until her arrest on Jan. 10, 2022. At that time, she was manager of student support, the Welcome & Connect Center and the Dream Center. She also served as the district ombudsperson.

Until her sentence, Zarate was on paid administrative leave. The Oak Leaf does not know if her sentence will impact her employment at the college.

“The District does not comment on confidential personnel matters, and no additional information is available at this time,” SRJC Interim Director of Public Relations Sarah Laggos said.

Narcotics officers from the Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) surveilled Rey David Garcia, Zarate’s boyfriend at the time, for three weeks beginning in late December 2021. At a preliminary hearing last March, officers said they observed Garcia on several occasions enter Zarate’s home for a few minutes, then travel to a house in southwest Santa Rosa where they know drugs are sold and used. This led them to believe Garcia used Zarate’s home to store drugs he was selling.

During their investigation, officers searched Zarate’s house and Garcia’s residence, allegedly finding methamphetamine in both locations. At Garcia’s home, officers said they seized 3.4 pounds of the substance and metal knuckles. In Zarate’s bedroom, officers said they seized 7.85 ounces of the substance, hidden inside socks in a drawer.

Garcia’s case is expected to proceed to a jury trial in mid-October. The Oak Leaf does not know if Zarate will appear as a witness in Garcia’s trial.

“It’s always possible that Ms. Zarate will be subpoenaed to testify in a trial involving Rey Garcia. However, that was not a negotiated term of her agreement with our office,” Assistant District Attorney Brian Staebell said in an email.

Zarate’s incarceration begins Sept. 29. If she completes her sentence, her case will be eligible for expungement, Staebell said.

Neither Zarate nor her attorney, Amy Chapman, could be reached for comment.

View Comments (7)
About the Contributor
Chelsea Kurnick
Chelsea Kurnick, Editor
Chelsea Kurnick (she/her) is in her second semester at SRJC and The Oak Leaf. Chelsea has a BA in Linguistics from UC Riverside, where she edited and designed the university's 51st volume of Mosaic, a journal of art and literature. Chelsea has bylines in the North Bay Bohemian, East Bay Express, The Press Democrat and Sonoma Magazine. She writes about the LGBTQIA+ community, social justice, and mental health. She hopes to attend UC Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program.

Comments (7)

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  • T

    Tricia ShortridgeFeb 3, 2024 at 11:56 pm

    Nobody has enough information on the surrounding circumstances to call her a criminal – and just because she got mixed up with an a$$ho1e does not make her a criminal.
    She probably didn’t know he was storing drugs at her house – I know she wouldn’t have let anyone do that. The cops even said that Garcia was entering and leaving her home during the day when she wasn’t there. She’s not a criminal at all – but her lack of awareness got her in a lot of trouble – and honestly, it could happen to anyone – lack of awareness can hurt lives in many ways.

  • M

    Mateo PruskyAug 31, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    I can’t believe the college was actually paying this criminal for the last months. A total waste of taxpayer dollars.

    • J

      Jimmy JamesSep 7, 2023 at 2:21 pm

      The question now is not that she was paid during the trial and sentence, but what will happen after she serves her time in jail and pays the fee. Will she return to the college in the same role? Will she work with students again after her crime?

      My guess is after she does her time and has her record cleared, the college may be forced to bring her back to campus in some form or another.

      Almost 8oz of meth in your home is hard to explain. My questions are did she have production materials in her home for drug sales? Did the investigators link her to sales of meth? Will she take the stand against Garcia during his trial to get such a sweetheart deal?

      Time will tell.

      • B

        BradJan 6, 2024 at 3:19 pm

        What’s the latest on this case?

        • J

          Jimmy JamesJan 22, 2024 at 4:21 pm

          Hi Brad,
          As far as I know, Ms Zarate is working again for SRJC. Not sure if her position is the same of new.
          It is my understanding the Oak Leaf is not allowed to write about this case moving forward.

          Her lawyer was very good. 8 oz of meth in your home is hard to explain.

          • N

            Nick VidesFeb 13, 2024 at 11:31 am

            Hi, The Oak Leaf is allowed to write about this case, The Editorial Board has chosen not to write about it until we gather the facts and come to a conclusion.

        • T

          TaylorJan 23, 2024 at 8:59 am

          Back on campus January 2024.