The message Wednesday night was simple.
Domestic violence, left unchecked can be deadly.
And to drive that point home, Suzanne Schultz – who coordinates the Family Justice Center for the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office – had a video that she showed for the lone mother and her daughter that attended Wednesday night’s domestic violence awareness meeting at the Lathrop Community Center.
It started with Donna Ramos – the mother of former Manteca High student Rene Ramos who was discovered strangled at the under-construction Home Depot location in Manteca in 2000 – talking about her daughter and the type of the person that she was.
Then she talked about the time that she saw her daughter with bruises on her arm – presumably given to her by then-boyfriend Jacob Silva.
She talked about how she saw her daughter with a black eye and told her that he was going to give her a black eye then what would stop him from doing worse – possibly even killing her.
Then the video shows the most startling images of the emotionally charged evening – the body of Ramos underneath the pile of rubble at the construction site, and a closer picture of her face amongst pieces of discarded insulation that had been used to cover her body. The picture showed her open eyes, and then the autopsy photos that vividly showed the strangulation marks on her neck.
Silva and a friend, 36-year-old Ty Lopes, were convicted of her rape and murder and both were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Both cases were prosecuted by Schultz’ husband Chuck. Lopes was killed by his cellmate at Mule Creek State Prison.
The video, which included two other mothers and pictures and stories about noticing abuse before their daughters were ultimately murdered by their significant others, was intended to be emotional and it was intended to be startling.
And that’s because Schulz, who said that she started her work with the county after her husband prosecuted the Ramos case, doesn’t want to need to add more names to the video.
“I’d give this presentation to one kid or I’d give this presentation to 800 kids,” Schultz said about the lone Lathrop High School student who attended with her mother. “And it’s supposed to have some amount of emotion involved with it because if we can reach one person who is involved in a relationship like this or somebody that can step up and say something then it’s beneficial.
“I can’t necessarily say whether it works or not because I’m not going to follow these people after they leave here. But we want to prevent it before it gets to the level of a case like this that we have to prosecute. By the time it gets to us it can be too late.”
The Ramos case, Schultz said, was of special concern to her not just because her husband prosecuted the case, but because she would see him come home every night and lay out countless files from the case – pictures of her when she was young and pictures of her when she was in high school and pictures with bruises.
“When you prosecute a murder case there are so many files that sometimes they fill an office,” she said. “And you see somebody’s entire life laid out in photos.”
She got involved with her current work shortly after that case and said that she gives Wednesday’s presentation, which bears the seal of the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office at the start of the video, at least once a month somewhere in San Joaquin County.
Wednesday’s particular session was the brainchild of Lathrop Police Chief Danelle Hohe who wanted to educate the public about domestic violence issues and how to spot them in advance rather than dealing with them after it occurs.
Last month a 53-year-old Lathrop man shot and killed his 48-year-old wife and then turned the gun on himself.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.