Mesa teacher fired when killing in past revealed - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa teacher fired when killing in past revealed

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Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2007 8:27 am | Updated: 7:51 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The Mesa Unified School District has fired a high school teacher who was charged in a fatal shooting more than 20 years ago.

Eugene Nero, 55, was hired by Mesa High School as a Spanish teacher in August without the district or principal being told of his past.

He was fired in November after the district learned he was charged with murder and later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for shooting his partner to death in Texas in 1984.

Tom Pickrell, general counsel for Mesa Public Schools, said the state Board of Education exercised poor judgment in granting certification for Nero.

According to minutes from the state board meeting on Oct. 24, 2005, Nero told board members during a certification hearing that the shooting was an act of self-defense but that his attorney recommended that he plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Francisco Javier Baez, 23, with whom Nero lived with in Pharr, Texas.

Nero received 10 years of probation and was ordered to pay $12,000 in restitution.

In May 1989, a Texas judge granted Nero’s requests to have his conviction set aside, his guilty plea withdrawn, his indictment dismissed and probation terminated, according to court records.

Because his conviction was dismissed, Nero received a fingerprint clearance card from the state Department of Public Safety.

After DPS issues a fingerprint clearance card, there is nothing else the law technically requires for a teacher to receive certification, according to education board officials.

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