2013 Recipients are:
Prosecutor of the Year - Matthew Serratto
Since joining our office in June of 2007 - following graduation with honors from UCLA School of Law - Matt has distinguished himself as a prosecutor. He consistently has been among the leaders in trials each year and has steadily been called upon to try increasingly difficult and challenging cases.
Last year Matt obtained a murder conviction in the case of the man who caused the death of a 16 month old baby as a result of child abuse. A judge recently sentenced the defendant in that case to 25 years to Life. Matt also secured a felony stalking conviction (one of the more difficult cases to prove) against the man who was charged with harassing Judge Jerry Corman and his wife. Matt also obtained a conviction in a third strike first degree burglary case and successfully prosecuted a second stalking case.
At this stage in his career Matt can be relied upon to take any case in the office to trial. He is known for his intelligence, preparation and work ethic. The judges all comment on his courtroom skill and collegial personality. He treats staff, both in our office and in the courts, with respect and consideration.
Matt also demonstrates again and again that he recognizes our unique opportunity to make Merced County a safer community. Since joining our office Matt has engaged in a number of community service efforts. He serves on the Basketball Tournament fundraiser which raised over $2,000 to benefit the Merced Boys and Girls Club. Matt has made numerous speaking appearances at local schools and UC Merced and participates in such benefits as Relay for Life and Run for the Fallen.
Investigator of the Year - Andrea Valtierra-Gongora
Andrea began her career in law enforcement ten years ago as a part-time investigative assistant with our office. After two years she left to attend the Fresno Police Academy. Following graduation she was hired as a deputy sheriff by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. After two years as a patrol deputy we were able to entice Andrea back to our office where she has been ever since.
In baseball (or softball), to be a good team you have to have successful individuals, but the most successful managers know that their team has to have a dependable and successful "closer." Over the last several years, Andrea has been that player for us. Andrea presents a compelling profile as a law enforcement officer. Her tenacity is the characteristic that most defines her work. In the last 18 months, Andrea has moved from Real Estate Fraud, to Consumer Fraud and now to also taking over Worker's Compensation Fraud. She is resolute, disciplined and never loses her compassion for all involved.
Andrea is always concerned about how our office functions and is perceived by the public. She never hesitates to offer suggestions on how our office can be improved, but does so in a positive and constructive manner. Despite the additional demands of parenting twins, Andrea continues to volunteer at schools and senior events and has served as a tutor and mentor for a young adult through the County Library's Adult Literacy program.
2012 Recipients are:
Prosecutor of the Year - Steven Slocum
Steve is being recognized for his incredible work in two high profile murder cases.
The murder of Rosa Avina was one of the most shocking crimes we’ve seen in years. Ms. Avina was kidnapped, thrown in a car trunk and taken out to the country where she was doused with gasoline and set on fire by the three defendants. Despite burns over her entire body, actually melting duct tape to her body, she managed to walk nearly a mile before she collapsed. She died the next day from her injuries. Steve tried all three defendants in two separate trials in front of three juries. It was the first time in memory that two separate juries were empanelled to sit in a single trial. All three defendants were found guilty of First Degree Murder. Steve’s work in this complex case was praised by the trial judge and court observers. Two of the defendants have been sentenced to Life Without Parole; the third is awaiting a similar sentence.
Steve also successfully prosecuted David Wickersham for murder after he stabbed a man 27 times. The defendant pled not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury found Wickersham guilty of First Degree Murder and sane at the time of the offense. The defendant was sentenced to 25 to Life.
In addition to Steve’s exceptional abilities in the courtroom he is a resource for many of his colleagues who recognize Steve’s work ethic, legal skills and judgment.
Steve is most deserving of this award.
Investigator of the Year - Denise Caudillo
Denise has distinguished herself by the magnitude of her casework in the District Attorney’s Office and by her selection as Zone 1 Director for the California Welfare Fraud Investigator’s Association.
Investigator Caudillo was sworn by District Attorney Larry D. Morse II on August 21st, 2006. She was assigned as a welfare fraud investigator in the Welfare Fraud Unit. Denise has shown steady progression in her level of expertise in the investigation complex welfare fraud cases. She has identified and investigated cases where the fraud level reached into the hundred thousand dollar range. While the system rarely punishes a welfare fraud violator with prison time, Denise has been able to pursue cases which resulted in prison (CDCR) custody of the perpetrators. Denise also developed and implemented the “Prosecution Diversion Program”, which has become a major functional process in our office.
More recently she has been assigned to investigate violations in the In Home Support Services (IHSS) program. There was a new area of investigation for our office. Denise again hit the ground running and wrote many of the protocols and procedures used to investigate and prosecute these cases.
Because of the passion and professionalism demonstrated by Denise, she was elected to the Directorship of Zone 1 of the California Welfare Investigator’s Association. She has been asked by that organization to teach classes and seminars at their training conferences and events. She is currently active and involved in planning future activities for investigators across the state.
She is not only professionally motivated in her job; she is always willing to help anyone who asks in any worthwhile cause.
In addition to all the above one additional fact stands out as an example of her commitment to the criminal justice profession, Denise completed all the coursework and was recently awarded her Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice.