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Justice for Ryder Salmen and Matthew Hernandez: Investigate Judge Sharon Lueras for Misconduct

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On September 29, 2012 at 7:30 AM, Sarah Ann Stephens called 911 from her home in Citrus Heights, California to report that her 8-month old baby son Ryder Salmen was not breathing. Ryder was pronounced dead at the scene when paramedics arrived. According to the Sacramento County Coroner, Ryder's cause of death was due to intoxication from the drugs Xanax, methadone, and oxymorphone. Ryder’s mother, Sarah Ann Stephens, a drug addict, had been breastfeeding Ryder drug-laced breast milk against orders from Child Protective Services (CPS).  In April 2012, CPS ordered Stephens to stop breastfeeding after high levels of methadone were found in Ryder's blood. Sarah Ann Stephens was fully aware that her breast milk was laced with highly potent pharmaceutical drugs, and despite knowing that her child was in danger, she did not stop breastfeeding. Stephens is currently being held without bond on a second-degree murder charge and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Ryder’s grandfather, Alan Salmen, explained that he fought for custody of Ryder, but despite clear evidence that Sarah was putting Ryder’s life in danger, his motion for guardianship was denied.  Mr. Salmen explained that he took his daughter Sarah to court in a desperate attempt to take Ryder away from his drug-addicted mother. Allegedly, the judge that was assigned to the case, Sharon Lueras, completely ignored a “dirty urine analysis” that proved Sarah was abusing drugs. According to Alan Salmen, Judge Lueras allegedly stated, “[Ryder] looks fine to me” and ruled in favor of Sarah Ann Stephens. According to Mr. Salmen, Judge Lueras did not even bother to review the urine analysis before her ruling.

Even more disturbing, after conducting an internet search for Sharon Lueras, I learned that in November of 2012, Judge Lueras ignored evidence submitted by a petitioner in a similar case. Jessica Hernandez appeared before Judge Lueras and argued that Matthew Hernandez, then father of their 9-year-old son, was abusing drugs, acting irrationally, and posing a threat to her child. Jessica feared for the life of her son, but according to Jessica, Judge Lueras refused to consider the evidence. Furthermore, Mrs. Hernandez alleges that without even bothering to read the court filing, Judge Lueras denied the custody change request. On February 26, 2013, Phillip Hernandez killed his son Matthew with a hatchet, a murder that Jessica Hernandez strongly believes Judge Lueras could have prevented if she had simply taken the time to review the evidence. If these allegations are true, Judge Lueras acted in gross negligence and in violation of her oath of office. Her alleged refusal to fulfill her obligations as a judge may have indirectly resulted in the death of 9-year old Matthew and 8-month old baby Ryder.

I ask that you please sign this petition and demand an investigation of Judge Lueras, and if she is found guilty of misconduct, have her sanctioned. To this end, we ask both the Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP) and the California State Auditor to investigate Judge Lueras for misconduct in the cases described above. The CPJ and the State Auditor are the agencies in California responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and disciplining judges. Specifically, this petition asks for an investigation of Judge Lueras for possible misconduct through willful and persistent failure to perform judicial duties. By allegedly ignoring the evidence in the cases of both Ryder Salmen and Matthew Hernandez, Judge Lueras was in violation of the California Rules of Court, punishable by sanction.

The 2011 California Whistleblower Protection Act protects you from retaliation for reporting misconduct by judges and signing this petition. You can also report judicial misconduct under the Whistleblower Protection Act to the California State Auditor, at the address and phone number below:

California State Auditor
555 Capitol Mall
Suite 300
Sacramento, California 95814

(916) 445-0255

I ask that you join me in seeking justice for both Ryder and Matthew by asking the CPJ and State Auditor to investigate the possible misconduct committed by Judge Lueras. Egregious miscarriages of justice like these should not be tolerated, especially when it involves the lives of children. Let's ensure that no more innocent children are abandoned by the laws enacted to protect them.


Thank you.


-Fabian Rivera-Chávez

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