| Law Enforcement
Cutting Through the Disinformation on the
In the months
after Teresa Macias' death we watched as Sheriff Mark lhde and
District Attorney Mike Mullins spun the official cover-story of
lies and obfuscation on the Macias case. Here's the truth behind
what you've seen in the papers.
Law Enforcement Didn't Act
The Sheriff's Story
The Sheriff's office variously reported having only two, then
four and finally nine contacts with Teresa Macias in the months
before her death. However, our investigation shows that in just
the last three months of her life, Teresa called the sheriff and
deputies responded at least 22 times that have been documented
by witnesses and in Teresa's journal. Yet despite the countywide
domestic violence policy that mandates arrest on restraining order
violations, Avelino was never arrested or even cited. In fact
deputies only bothered to write reports on two occasions.
The Sheriff maintains that deputies had no record of the restraining
order, or could not confirm that a permanent order had been issued.
A witness reports that Teresa delivered a copy to the Sonoma substation
soon after her permanent order was issued. Witnesses also state
that when deputies responded to Teresa's calls for help, she showed
them the restraining order currently in force. If they still were
uncertain, a simple call to the court would have clarified the
The Sheriff maintains that deputies made no arrest because they
never perceived Teresa was in danger. Sheriff's deputies were
well aware she was in danger. She repeatedly reported Avelino's
constant stalking, breaking into her house, blocking her escape
and threats to kill. Not only were these obvious signs of danger,
they were serious crimes for which he could and should have been
arrested. In one incident not long before the murder Teresa's
friend and neighbor, Marty Cabello, went with her to the sheriff
s substation. Cabello says she told deputies that things were
escalating and that Avelino had told her he was going to kill
Teresa. She begged them to do something to protect her friend,
but deputies took no action. Besides, Avelino should have been
arrested for violation of a restraining order every time he made
any contact or came within 100 yards of Teresa, her mother or
her children ... period. Those were the terms of the order, and
whether or not Teresa was afraid or was being physically abused
at that time was immaterial.
The Sheriff maintains that Teresa didn't want Avelino arrested.
Yet one of the two reports sent up to the D.A. for prosecution
states, "Per the request of Maria Macias a copy of this rept.
will be forwarded to the D.A.'s Office for review/complaint."
Other excuses given early on were that Teresa didn't report one
incident until a week later, and that in a second incident Avelino
was in his own home when deputies found him, and thus they had
no authority to arrest. Both excuses are patently absurd.
The District Attorney's
Both crime reports sent to the District Attorney for review were
rejected for prosecution "in the interest of justice." Internal
documents leaked to the press and organizers showed both were
rejected for completely specious reasons. In the complaint review
form, the D.A. states the January 31st report was rejected because:
must obtain permanent order" - simply not true. At the time
of this incident Teresa's temporary restraining order (TRO)
was valid and in force until, February 15.
corroboration" - in fact the report named a witness who
saw Avelino coming by the residence and who answered one of
his phone calls to Teresa.
harassment" - Any violation of the order was enough for
prosecution, whether or not Teresa was feeling harassed or afraid.
In their complaint review form, the D.A. states the February 22nd
crime report was rejected because:
proof of service" - The first incident covered by this report
took place on 2/14/96, when the original TRO was still in effect.
There is no controversy over proof of service on the original
order. The second incident took place one week after the court
hearing at which the permanent order was issued. Because Avelino
was present in court at that hearing, no proof of service was
copy of order after hearing" - This should not have been
reason to reject the case, as the fact of the order could have
been easily verified by checking the courtroom minutes.
In a press conference on May 29, D.A. Mike Mullins stated he didn't
file stalking charges because stalking was not part of the sheriff's
complaint. Yet in the supplemental report dated 2/24/96, Sheriffs
Deputy Mark Lopez stated, "It is this Deputies (sic) recommendation
that the D.A.'s Office possibly consider filing Stocking (sic)
charges against [Avelino Macias] after reviewing all the facts."
The fact is, stalking when there is a restraining order in force
is an automatic felony, punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in prison.
Had the D.A. filed these charges, as he should have, Teresa Macias
would probably be alive today.
Deputy D.A.'s checked the wrong box on the form.
The Rest of the
the sheriff and district attorney have confined their excuses
to the details of the restraining order violations, these were
in fact the least of Avelino's crimes against Teresa and her children.
Teresa reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) 10 years of
Avelino's physical and sexual abuse of the children. As her account
detailed felony abuse, the sheriff's department was responsible
for the criminal investigation. That investigation was inadequate
at best. We do know that both of Teresa's older children corroborated
her account. Still, the criminal process was dropped and despite
more than sufficient evidence, no charges were filed. As a result,
rather than Avelino being incarcerated for abusing the children,
Teresa was punished instead when CPS took the kids from her, citing
her inability to protect them from Avelino's abuse.
April, 1995 request for a restraining order included a copy of
the CPS report, as well as a sworn statement detailing Avelino's
physical abuse of Teresa herself, including physical beatings
and rape. Her January, 1996 restraining order request also included
sworn statements as to specific incidents of rape, threats to
kill, and abuse of the children. Most times deputies came to the
house, they read these restraining order documents.
many crimes reported in the eighteen calls to the sheriff we've
been able to document unequivocally were stalking, breaking and
entering, false imprisonment, terrorist threats, and more -- any
of which could have and should have resulted in arrest and prosecution.
to Correct the Problem
The sheriff's internal investigation into their prior contacts
with Teresa. After an investigation opened on May 21st and
closed only two days later, the Sheriff's Office released a report
in which they, "cleared themselves of any wrongdoing," according
to the Press Democrat. Asst. Sheriff Gary Zanolini told the press,
"I'm very comfortable with what we did given the circumstances."
The bogus Attorney General investigation. In a May 25th
press release, it was announced that Sheriff Mark lhde, "has requested
an independent review by the state attorney general's office into
the facts and circumstances surrounding the Macias murder and
suicide," as well as into internal domestic violence policies
and procedures. However, documents received from the Attorney
General reveal that no such investigation was ever requested.
In a June
4th letter to Sheriff lhde, Attorney General Dan Lungren writes,
"The copy of the press release which you furnished might be read
to suggest that our office would be reviewing the Macias case
specifically. As I understand
the matter, that is not our role; instead we will be reviewing
the general policies for the purpose of ascertaining whether changes
might be made to enhance the effectiveness of those policies."
letter was released to the press lhde responded, "The letter is
not correct. There will be a review of the case." (Press Democrat,
6/18/96.) But in response to our California Public Records Act
request for documents concerning the investigation, Senior Assistant
Attorney General John Gordnier states unequivocally, "Sheriff
lhde did not request an investigation. The sheriff requested,
we are conducting, a review of the policies and procedures related
to the handling of domestic violence matters in Sonoma County."
the Attorney General
investigation was a sham. But, as Ihde wrote to Lungren,
"It appears that this approach has calmed
The press conference. On May 29th, a visibly frightened Mark
lhde and D.A. Mike Mullins, looking haggard and depressed, presented
the Bay Area press with the actions they'd taken to prevent what
had happened to Teresa from ever happening again. Touted by the
press in headlines like "Sonoma County Adopts New Domestic Abuse
Policy," the steps they announced then and in recent weeks, are
an insult the public's intelligence. They include:
stickers on all sheriff's department
cars. Besides the obvious absurdity of the bumper sticker solution,
in fact the stickers had already been on sheriff s cars for
months and were probably on the cars of deputies who responded
to Teresa's many calls for help.
- Ten cell
phones, as if Teresa's death stemmed from not being able to
call 911, rather than from deputies' complete unwillingness
to act once they responded to her repeated calls for help.
- A computerized
system for all domestic violence restraining orders, to be implemented
by July 1st. Far from resulting from Teresa's murder, this system
is mandated by the California Penal Code, and by law must be
up and running by July 1st. For the sheriff to pretend this
resulted from the Macias case is loathsome.
- A blue
ribbon panel to review the Attorney General's findings, to be
chaired by and to include many of the same people who, on the
county's Task Force on Violence Against Women, stifled every
proposal for real accountability on the part of public officials,
and then voted to disband the task force rather than include
the county's only victim/witness advocate and grassroots women's
paperwork training for all deputy district attorneys, the D.A.'s
only tangible proposal for immediate action by his office.
received for the sheriff's new domestic violence team are in
no way a response to the Macias case, but were in fact applied
for last year.
What Real Change
Would Look Like
In all of this,
the sheriff and district attorney have not yet even begun to address
the core problem: What is going to make deputies care enough to
even write an initial report? Far from taking on that task, our
public officials are literally playing with women's lives when
they try to dazzle us with public relations ploys instead of searching
for real solutions. To truly prevent what happened to Teresa from
ever happening again, profound changes must be made in the criminal
justice system from top to bottom - changes not just in procedures
and policies, but in deep-seated attitudes about a woman's right
to safety. That will only happen if we all make it happen.