Crime Victims Gather for Orange County District Attorney’s Annual Ceremony

Crime Victims Gather for Orange County District Attorney’s Annual Ceremony

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes speak in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sept. 20, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

4/22/2024

Updated: 4/22/2024

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SANTA ANA, Calif.—James Alvarez on April 22 recalled the chilling moment he saw a sport utility vehicle careening toward him and his pregnant wife on their nightly walk in Anaheim nearly four years ago.
The couple had taken to daily walks on their health kick during the pregnancy the two had worked so hard for after a couple of years of trying, he said.
“I remember seeing her glow,” Mr. Alvarez said. “The only difference that day was we took a different route. ... We took the long way home.”
Then he could hear “screams” from the nearby shopping center as a “white SUV was losing control.”
Clutching the hand of his 23-year-old wife, Yesenia Lisette Aguilar, “I closed my eyes, thinking this is how our lives would end.”
Then, she was ripped away, he told his audience at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office’s annual ceremony for crime victims outside its office in Santa Ana Monday.
“I see it so vividly,” he said, choking up. “Seeing her, the person I expected to spend the rest of my life with suddenly gone. ... I could not register what was going on.”
When the paramedics arrived he was told he could not go with his wife to the hospital because it was during the pandemic.
“I remember telling the paramedics to save her, and if you can’t, save my daughter,” he said.
When he finally arrived at the hospital he was “given the news no one wants to hear. ... Hearing this news, it broke me because I felt as a husband it was my duty to protect my family but I failed.”
But the doctors were able to rescue his daughter with emergency surgery, he said. Later, when the newborn was stable enough for a visit in the intensive care unit he again met a moment that “broke me,” seeing her attached to life-saving equipment.
But seeing her “fighting for her life,” inspired him to go on, he said.
“To this day she’s fighting for her life to be here for me,” he said of his daughter, Adalyn Rose.
His daughter, he said, has been “affected the most” because she will have no personal memories of her mother. And her Aug. 11, 2020, birthday, he added, will always be tinged with melancholy as it is also the anniversary of his wife’s death.
Mr. Alvarez encouraged the crime victims to “unite” to fight for tougher laws.
“We need to make sure the laws are stricter,” he said. “We need to stand up. ... We need to find ways to make our voices heard.”
Arely Perez, the mother of a girl who was tortured by her stepmother, read the victim impact statement she wrote for the sentencing of the stepmother, Mayra Corina Chavez, who was sentenced to nearly 15 years to life in prison in November. The victim, who is now 10, stood with her, wiping away tears as her mother spoke.
The girl’s father, Domingo Flores, pleaded guilty last week and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
California Highway Patrol Lt. Tannon Brown spoke of the efforts to capture Marcus Anthony Eriz, who fatally shot 6-year-old Aiden Leos in a road- rage incident as the boy’s mother was driving him to kindergarten.
The investigators only had a “very vague description of the car” and no license plate, Mr. Brown said. Detectives sifted through records from the DMV of 12,400 vehicles to narrow down potential suspects, he said.
Tips from the public ended up being “very, very useful,” he said.
Mr. Brown told the victims that when police are confronted with such heinous crimes that they respond as the general public does.
“We respond the way the community responds,” he said. “We’re sad and mourning with the family. ... We start to become angry like the community becomes angry.”
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes railed against efforts to reform criminal justice in the state, arguing that lawmakers were more concerned about defendants than they are victims.
“This social science experiment over the last 10 years has failed,” Mr. Barnes said. “Forty-nine states in the country are laughing at us. ... It’s time for the pendulum to swing back to the middle.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said it was important for law enforcement officials to avoid cynicism.
“We need [victims] to remind us so we don’t get calloused,” Mr. Spitzer said. “I never want to lose my humanity doing this work. ... I don’t want to be numb.”
No matter the “political bent,” Orange County residents are “united” in wanting to fight crime, Mr. Spitzer said.
“I feel very strongly we’re so united ... about keeping our community safe to the best of our ability.”
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