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Break the silence

'In constant fear': Court records document woman's struggle with domestic abuse

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Shortly after the sun rose on the morning of May 10, Racine Police squad cars lined the 2600 block of 19th Street.

Inside a nearby home, police discovered the bodies of 30-year-old Angelica “Angie” Rios and 34-year-old Ubaldo Gonzalez Jr.

Police confirmed the incident was likely a murder-suicide.

The life of a 30-year-old mother, daughter and friend was taken that day, in a domestic abuse story that was years in the making.

History of violence

Court records show that Rios was trapped in a cycle of violence with Gonzalez — something many domestic-abuse victims find themselves facing — beginning as early as 2011.

On Oct. 2, 2011, Gonzalez was charged with disorderly conduct stemming from a domestic-abuse incident with Rios. According to a Racine Police Department report, Gonzalez came home after a night of drinking and began to urinate on Rios’ clothing.

The two got into a verbal altercation and Gonzalez hit her, the report states. Rios left the home and contacted police. Gonzalez was arrested. He bonded out of jail four days later. He was not sentenced to jail time.

Such a sequence of events is not uncommon in domestic-abuse scenarios.

According to the Department of Justice, in 2017, 662 domestic-abuse cases were closed; out of those, 54 people (8%) were sentenced to jail, 99 (15%) were placed on probation and 156 (23.6%) were not incarcerated.

The next incident happened less than a year later, on May 6, 2012. According to the police report, the two had been together for four years and living together for one. Rios told police Gonzalez was her fiancé.

During the incident, Gonzalez was drunk and searching for money he thought was in the residence the two shared. He blamed Rios for losing the money. He then threw a clothes iron at a plasma-screen television that Rios had bought a week before.

Four years later — on Oct. 12, 2016 —Rios filed for a restraining order against Gonzalez. In a filed statement of facts written by Rios, she said that she had left Gonzalez five months prior due to his alcoholism and abuse. She said that Gonzalez had been harassing her since then, sending her texts threatening her life.

“When I was living with Ubaldo, he held me down with a knife to my throat and forced me to sleep next to him all night while he held me to ensure that I did not escape,” Rios’ statement says. “He said ‘Do not try to leave, or I’ll make sure I really kill you!’ “

Rios said that Gonzalez had access to a gun, and that she felt as if she was in imminent danger of physical harm.

“I live in constant fear that he will actually go through with his threat and actually kill me one day,” Rios’ statement says. “I beg that you please grant this restraining order.”

In November 2016, Rios was granted a restraining order against Gonzalez. But in January 2017, she requested that it be dismissed.

Seeking legal help

Defense attorney Jamie McClendon, who often works with clients stuck in a cycle of domestic abuse, said that shortening the time between a domestic- abuse incident and when the abuser initially appears in court might help victims.

In the first case involving Rios, Gonzalez posted bond four days after the altercation. He did not appear in court until a month later. In the second incident, Gonzalez’s initial appearance was three months after the incident.

“The problem with waiting a month or two months, and having the person accused of abuse coming back to the home, is when they come home, it’s ‘I’m sorry. It’ll never happen again,’ or it’s ‘You better never call the police,’ “ McClendon said.

McClendon said that speeding up the time between the offense and appearance will allow judges to grant no-contact orders for victims right away as a condition of bond. This would allow victims more time to seek out resources and make decisions independently, without the influence of their abuser.

She also said that having victim statements recorded at the time of the offense would help prevent victims from being coerced into recanting their stories or diminishing what happened.

Restraining orders

If a court does not issue a no-contact order, victims can go to the Racine County Courthouse and file a restraining order. After filling out paperwork, filers can receive a 14-day temporary injunction. They can then go before a judge or commissioner within 14 days to get a restraining order, which if granted can last for up to 10 years.

Sam Christensen, the Racine County clerk of courts, said that filing a restraining order can help a person; but that it’s important to remember that it is only a piece of the puzzle.

“You can’t just rely completely on a restraining order,” he said. “It does have some teeth, don’t get me wrong ... at the end of the day, it’s a piece of paper, that if push comes to shove, won’t ultimately save your life.”

“I live in constant fear that he will actually go through with his threat and actually kill me one day.” Angelica Rios, in restraining-order paperwork submitted to the Racine County Circuit Court in 2016

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Alyssa Mauk covers breaking news and courts. She enjoys spending time with her family, video games, heavy metal music, watching YouTube videos, comic books and movies.

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