HIV-Positive Woman Released From Prison Dies At Home

MIAMI (CBS4) – The 27-year-old woman who was granted conditional release by the Florida Parole Commission because she was dying from cancer passed away Tuesday.

Betsie Gallardo Bussert peacefully passed away at approximately 10 a.m. in Indiana, according to her adoptive mother Jessica Bussert.

“She was surrounded by her parents and her siblings, and the room was simply filled with love,” Jessica Bussert said in a statement. “Over the past few weeks Betsie was able to visit with family and friends, walk on the beach, go out to a movie, go shopping, and attend church. She was free and happy and she was blessed in a thousand ways. When the time finally came she was at peace and out of pain. We held her hands and prayed with her up until the last.”

Betsie Gallardo Bussert was also able to fulfill a final wish before she headed home to Indiana from Florida, where she serving her sentence.

In a CBS4 news exclusive, our cameras followed Betsie Gallardo and her adoptive mother Jessica Bussert as they were able to make a journey at sunset to the ocean.

“We’re at the Beach,” said Gallardo. “I haven’t done this in a long time.” We met Galardo and Bussert at a parking lot at 46th Street and Collins Avenue and followed them down a boardwalk and on to the sand just as the sun was going down and on the final night before they were to go home to Indiana.

It was a special journey.

“I felt the cold water on my feet,” said Gallardo as she walked in to the ocean. “It was so peaceful. I am excited, very excited. My Mom said I could come here. I love the ocean.”

Gallardo had received a five year prison term in 2008 after biting a police officer in Naples. Bussert said Gallardo received a severe sentence because she was HIV positive. But the Florida Parole Commission released her on January 5th to she could spend her dying days with her adoptive family in Indiana. It was a conditional release and she was to remain under house arrest.

Her adoptive mother was thankful that her daughter was able to live her life before she passed away.

“So many people fought for this miracle (her release) to happen,” said Bussert, “and so many helped. Not only do I get to see my child but I get to take her home. And she can be with our family and all of us. This is special, that we can share time with her.”

Gallardo was staying at a hospice in Miami-Dade since her release from the Broward Correctional Facility before heading to Indiana.

Bussert said Gallardo bit the officer in Naples while she was being arrested on a child neglect charge after leaving her boyfriend’s child home alone for more than 30 minutes. That charge was later dropped.

Four months into her sentence for the assault on the officer, Gallardo was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer. It has since spread to her liver, lungs and ovaries and doctors determined that her condition was terminal.

Gallardo has had a difficult life.

Gallardo, who was born in the U.S. HIV positive, grew up in Haiti after her father abandoned her, her sister and mother there. When their mother died, the two sisters were forced to live on the streets.

“Betsie’s first ten years were full of abuse, physical, sexual, starvation. She grew up in the poorest slum this side of the planet,” said Bussert.

A memorial mass will be held at St. Agnes Church in Nashville Indiana on Sunday, February 6th at 2:00pm. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that gifts be sent directly to either of the two hospice services that provided much care to Betsie and the family, her mother requested.

Hospice of Bloomington Hospital
619 W. 1st Street
Bloomington, IN 47403
(812) 353-9818

Catholic Hospice of Miami
14875 NW 77 Avenue
Suite 100
Miami Lakes, FL 33014


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