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Questions Mount For DA In Slaying Of SD College Student

Audio

Aired 10/21/10

October is Domestic Violence Month. San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis highlighted the problem this week. But she did so amid mounting questions about why her office didn't press charges against a man suspected of murdering the wife he had previously brutalized. The victim tapped into the very resources Dumanis touted.

— October is Domestic Violence Month. San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis highlighted the problem this week. But she did so amid mounting questions about why her office didn't press charges against a man suspected of murdering the wife he had previously brutalized. The victim tapped into the very resources Dumanis touted.

Diana Gonzalez
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Above: Diana Gonzalez

Diana Gonzalez met Armando Perez at a mall in 2007. She was 16. He was 34. They began dating the following year. Last December, they had a baby and got married. In July, they separated. By all accounts, Perez refused to accept the separation.

Last month, Gonzalez said her estranged husband kidnapped her from San Diego City College. For three days, he held her captive. She said he raped her. He threatened to kill her. And he choked her until she passed out.

"When you strangle somebody to unconsciousness, that's called attempted murder and when that dynamic has gone on, there should be a lot of things going on in a community to make sure the victim is going to be safe," said Casey Gwinn, head of the Family Justice Alliance, which advocates for domestic violence victims.

Immediately, following the attack, Gonzalez reported the alleged abduction to San Diego police. The 19-year-old told a detective Perez had battered her 20 other times. Based on her injuries and her story, the detective determined Gonzalez had been a victim of kidnapping, assault, rape, false imprisonment, spousal abuse and criminal threats. Perez was arrested. The police department submitted the case to the district attorney's office. Gonzalez also filed for a restraining order against Perez.

"When you read the police report, when you read her declaration she filed in family court, she did everything society expects her to do," said Gwinn. "She didn't recant. She provided all the information."

But the district attorney's office did not press charges. Perez was released. And authorities now believe he went back to San Diego City College for Gonzalez a second time last Tuesday. This time she died violently.

Perez has been charged with her murder and remains a fugitive.

"I think there's no doubt that if someone has been assaulted for a long period of time in a relationship and they've come forward for help from the system and they end up murdered, the system has failed. There really can't be any argument about that," Gwinn said.

Gwinn stops short of pointing the finger at District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis or her staff. He says there's additional evidence like photographs, forensics from the various crime scenes and the rape examination kit that have not been made public. "But given the information we do know, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered."

"We have more than just an original police report."

"In this case we were not able to file charges because there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," explained District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Because of the pending investigation, Dumanis would not say what additional evidence was needed.

But former DA Paul Pfingst says the public has a right to know. "The public is entitled to know whether or not there was a screw-up with the government that ultimately resulted in the death of an innocent woman. The public is entitled to know whether this should have been handled differently. The reason we're entitled to know so that if it needs to be handled differently, the public can be assured that the proper changes are made."

Historically, domestic violence cases within the city of San Diego that were not pursued by the DA were turned over to the City Attorney's office for possible misdemeanor prosecution. That did not happen in the Gonzalez case. A DA spokesman said that's because legally, the burden of proof on a misdemeanor is the same as for a felony…beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dumanis, a former domestic violence judge, says there will be a review of how the Gonzalez case was handled. "You don't always know which batterers are the ones that are going to be really violent and those that aren't, and so you do the best you can in each and every case."

Gwinn welcomes the DA's review. But he says people should understand that domestic violence homicides are 100 percent preventable.

"There's too many indicators, too many predictors, too much information is available now about when someone is going to die to say that with all the information that existed, this was the best we could do."

Comments

Avatar for user 'sdcitizens'

sdcitizens | October 21, 2010 at 9:23 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

There is no accountability for the DA's office, particularly when it comes to their handling of DV cases. Diana did everything - to the letter- that a DV vicitim should do. She filed a report and stayed away from the perp and fully engaged her support system. Can you imagine what it's like to be raped, kidnapped, and terrified for three whole days and have that person walk out of jail scott free? I can't imagine the heartbreak she must have felt when he was freed.

I also can't imagine the fear she and her family lived in as she tried to live her life with this animal out on the street stalking her, and then ultimately killing her, like prey.

I had a friend who had two DV incidences that she reported and her husband wasn't taken in. She was told by the investigating officers that the DA isn't prosecuting DV cases as in years past due to budget cuts. In other words, if it's not a slam dunk, then tough luck. Well Diana's case certainly seemed to be a slam dunk and she did not retract her testimony like so many victims do.
The dollars they could have used to investigate this case are now being used to catch this animal who is still roaming the streets.

The DA must provide some transparency and stop hiding behind the "it's a continuing investigation" veil. We as a commnunity demand to know why Diana was not protected!

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Avatar for user 'hboooo'

hboooo | October 21, 2010 at 9:53 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

People should be losing their jobs!!!! MANDO

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Avatar for user 'cinead'

cinead | October 21, 2010 at 10:32 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

The "law" in San Diego is a pretense, especially at SDSU "home" of NPR San Diego. A knife fight in the street in front of the campus police takes the life of one young man, and those "police" pretend to the "press" that it happened down the street. NPR is so bent in the direction of social "parity" for FOREIGN NATIONALITIES with American citizens that it now pays more to be an illegal-alien here than it does to be a citizen. Today's news of the firing of Juan Williams for expressing his own knee-jerk reaction to the presence of Muslim's on an airliner is a disgrace. If I had been listening to NPR even for something as entertaining as PHC, I will no longer tolerate the "liberal" indulgence of foreign nationals as if they are equal to American citizens in America. If you have no rights in this country distinguishing you from foreign nationals of ANY stripe, then "American-citizen" becomes an empty concept. Ahmajinedad for tea? Not on my watch. Bye-Bye NPR and the local DA.

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Avatar for user 'Lisa2'

Lisa2 | October 21, 2010 at 10:58 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

I intend to remember Gwinn's name for the next time she runs for reelection. I won't be voting for her.

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Avatar for user 'cbear'

cbear | October 21, 2010 at 12:48 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Who is Bonnie Dumanis accountable to?
A year ago I was attacked by a former boyfriend and my arm was broken.
Bonnie Dumanis REFUSED to press charges. Even the police officer who responded to the case couldn't believe it.
With no legal system to protect me, I had to move.
This is criminal.
How can San Diego let this happen?

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | October 21, 2010 at 1:35 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

To clarify, Casey Gwinn is a former San Diego City Attorney who now is the president of the Family Justice Alliance. The current San Diego County District Attorney is Bonnie Dumanis.

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Avatar for user 'gorgeous_chik7'

gorgeous_chik7 | October 21, 2010 at 2:14 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Wait, let me get this straight. Bonnie Dumanis says "You don't always know which batterers are the ones that are going to be really violent and those that aren't, and so you do the best you can in each and every case."

So....a man KIDNAPS, rapes, strangles, and beats a woman for THREE days ALMOST KILLING HER and you think he's LESS threatening than a man who occationally slaps, maybe punches, his wife!?!?!? Don't be f**king stupid! Just admit you were wrong and made a mistake. Don't play dumb.

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Avatar for user 'myopinion'

myopinion | October 21, 2010 at 5:28 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

To think that San Diego started the Family Justice Center, and we became a model for the rest of the nation. Now we are failing our women who are experiencing domestic violence in their lives. :I

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Avatar for user 'Ziggy4'

Ziggy4 | October 21, 2010 at 8:21 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

I suspect Bonnie Dumanis is not being completely honest when she says"In this case we were not able to file charges because there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Ms. Dumanis knows very well that direct victim evidence presented to a jury is sufficient in and of its self to establish that standard of proof. The victim of a crime testifying under oath to the facts in this case would be sufficient if the jury believes the witness/victim to sustain a conviction with proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

In all likelihood, The deputy reviewing the officer's report wanted additional information before proceeding with the filing of the felony charges. The deputy most likely did not think time was of the essence and additional information would help win a conviction with a little more additional evidence. Remember, once charged a defendant has a constitutional right to a preliminary examination within 10 days of his arraignment. If he not held to answer at that hearing, the damage to the people case can be devastating.

A MISTAKE...but in all likelihood an honest mistake by an overworked Deputy District Attorney. I am willing to guess that he or she feels terrible about not proceeding with the information at hand. A woman is dead and that deputy will have to deal with that result and his/her decision not to file immediately for the rest of his/her life.

Bonnie on the other hand is just covering her political ass....She could give us a pretty good idea of what really happened without endangering any future investigation. She knows the best political course of action is to stall as long as possible then in a few months quietly admit the mistake and point out that she personally did not learn of the decision not to proceed in the case until after the fact. She'll promise changes will be made!

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | October 22, 2010 at 8:38 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Shame on the DA's office and shame on NPR with it's politically correct paralysis. Both fine examples of how some of our most important organizations have seized up to the point that they can't call a spade a spade, differentiate between right and wrong, and act for the greater good of our society. I can’t believe I’m going to have to start tuning in to FOX news to find people who are fed up with this kind of lethargic reasoning.

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Avatar for user 'NoJuanKnows'

NoJuanKnows | October 23, 2010 at 12:20 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

The DA has plenty of time and discretionary resources to prosecute (non-violent) cannabis offenders despite the legalization of medical marijuana in CA yet she cannot bring forth a domestic violence case that includes rape and kidnapping?

Sheriff Gore refuses to issue concealed carry weapons permits so folks like Diana Gonzalez can defend themselves lawfully from violent exes? How on earth can we pretend that Bonnie and Gore actually are looking out for the safety and security of the people who elected them?!

While I may not have the whole answer to balancing the budget in San Diego County, I can think of two salaries and pensions that could be cut with no noticeable detriment to the taxpaying citizens of San Diego...

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