Maria Teresa Macias Case
of Helping Me
over a year before she was murdered by her husband Avelino, Maria
Teresa Macias pursued every possible avenue to escape his years
of violence against herself and their three children. She reported
to Child Protective Services, obtained restraining orders, cooperated
with investigators, attended counseling, brought her mother in from
Mexico and her sister from Ireland, and tirelessly reported new
incidents to authorities, verbally and in writing. In just the last
three months of her life, between January and April 1996, Teresa
and witnesses reported Avelino's crimes against her to the Sheriff's
Department on at least 18 different occasions.
Teresa solicited the
help of friends, professionals, battered women's groups, churches,
and Latino organizations, stayed at shelters, studied English, got
help to translate for police, meticulously documented, spoke publicly
about abuse, and reached constantly for two goals, to live in peace
with her children, and to help other women who find themselves victims
of abusive men.
Teresa's struggle to
be free of Avelino's violence was relentless. And it was doomed.
The help she reached for, failed her at every turn. After Child
Protective Services took her children because she was unable to
keep Avelino away from them, Teresa made a comment to her mother
that seemed to describe the efforts of her entire last year. "Instead
of helping me, Teresa told her mother, They sank me even more".
April 15, four days before she was going to take the final step
of fleeing north with her kids, Avelino lay in wait at the Sonoma
house she and her mother were due to clean. Avelino ended Teresa's
life with a bullet to the head, shot her mother through the legs,
and then turned the gun on himself.
In the last couple weeks
of her life, Teresa became enveloped by an ominous sense that Avelino
would indeed succeed in his threats to kill her. If he did, she
told her mother, she wanted the story told. "If I die, I don't wan't
other women to suffer what I am suffering", she said, "I want them
to be listened to." It's with the same hope that we present the
following facts and questions as we know them to date.
We didn't know Teresa
before her death. The following information is gathered from court
documents, interviews with eye witnesses, interviews with her family
and close friends, and from the extensive documentation and diary
left by Teresa herself.
Sheet and Questions, May 20, 1996
- On March 31, 1995,
Maria Teresa Macias reported in writing to Child Protective Services
(CPS) that her husband Avelino had physically and sexually assaulted
her and their children for the last decade. In both her report
to CPS and in the statements she attached to her temporary restraining
order application a few weeks later, Teresa made clear she was
an eye witness to many of the physical and sexual assaults against
her children. After receiving the report, CPS told Teresa that
if she didn't keep the children from Avelino, they would intervene
and take the kids.
- The Sheriff's Department
was responsible for the criminal investigation in this case. A
year later, the District Attorney's computer has no record that
the results of a Sheriff's investigation into the child abuse
had been logged into the District Attorney's office. Did the Sheriff's
Department do a complete criminal investigation? Or did they yield
to a less formal response of counseling and social work to deal
with these grievous criminal allegations of violence and sexual
And in 1994, when Teresa called the Sheriff to her home following
a beating Avelino had given their son, did the Sheriff take any
action then? There is no indication in the DA computer that the
results of this case were sent to the DA's office either, despite
there being another adult witness present during the incident.
It is known that in the last three months of her life, between
January and April of 1996, Teresa and other witnesses called the
Sheriff or went directly to the substation on at least 18 different
occasions to report Avelino's ongoing violations. On these occasions,
Avelino was never once arrested, cited, or charged. Yet on each
of these occasions Teresa and/or the witnesses reported an array
of criminal acts by Avelino against Teresa including but not limited
to: daily stalking, forced entry into her home, threats to kill,
false imprisonment, violations of restraining orders, telephone
harassment, trespass at her places of work and more. The Sheriff
was told, "Do something. He's going to kill her! He's told me
he's going to kill her!"
- Following her initial
report to CPS (March 1995), Teresa went into a battered women's
shelter with her children, and when Avelino found her there she
transferred to another shelter. Though she had been content at
the first shelter, she was very uncomfortable with conditions
at the second. Teresa made a phone call to a long time friend.
She told her friend how unhappy she was staying at the second
shelter. The friend told Teresa that that wasn't a problem, that
Avelino had completely moved out of their home in Aquacalierite,
and Teresa could feel free to move back there with the kids.
- Soon after Teresa
moved back to her Aquacaliente home, Avelino pushed his way back
in. His violence and threats resumed. He threatened against her
going to police or going to court to renew the restraining order.
But according to all accounts, what made Teresa most fearful of
going to authorities at this time was the CPS threat to take the
kids if Teresa couldn't keep Avelino away.
- Teresa was tormented
by this dilemma. She talked at length with her friend trying to
weigh out the dangers and benefits of going to authorities at
this time. On June 8, 1995, CPS did come in and take the kids.
Those close to Teresa all say she was devastated by the loss.
On June 16. Teresa recanted everything, apparently in hopes of
getting the state to return her kids.
- On the day of the
court hearing that followed the removal of the kids, her friend
translated the CPS report to Avelino. 'There was not one thing
in that report. that was negative about Teresa', says her friend,
'Except the fact that Teresa couldn't keep Avelino away from the
kids.' Teresa had gone to CPS seeking protection for the kids
from Avelino, and CPS had turned the full burden and responsibility
of protection back on her. 'Instead of helping me', Teresa told
her mother. 'they sank me even more. During the early summer of
1995, in addition to suffering the loss of her children, Avelino
was reasserting his control with a vengeance. Teresa became a
prisoner in her own home. Desperate from her worsening situation,
Teresa called in her mother from Mexico and her sister from Ireland.
They arrived in August. Where the Sheriff and CPS had failed in
getting Avelino out, together, the mother, the sister, and Teresa
succeeded. In September 1995. they threw Avelino out of the house.
But still they were unable to get him out of Teresa's life.
- More than anything,
Teresa wanted her children hack. The steps laid out by the county
to do so were confusing to all who tried to help her. By all accounts,
both Teresa and Avelino became entangled in conflicting and changing
treatment objectives put forth by an array of counselors and social
workers. One would be working toward protecting the kids from
Avelino while another other was working toward family reunification.
- On January 22, 1996,
Teresa obtained another temporary restraining order. In her application
Teresa recounts Avelino's ongoing threats to kill, threats to
keep her from ever seeing the children again, and ongoing incidents
of Avelino's forcing her to have sex against her will. On February
15, Teresa went to court and had the restraining order made permanent.
- During the time the
restraining orders were in effect, in the three months before
Avelino killed Teresa, his threats, stalking, and an array of
assaults continued on nearly a daily basis. Avelino followed her
everywhere, he forced entry into her home. pounded on doors, blocked
her car wit.h his car. caused her to lose job after job because
he stalked her at work, violated the restraining order numerous
times a day, and never ceased with his threats to kill both Teresa
and her mother. Though she reported all this to the Sheriff, it
appears the one crime she didn't report directly were the ongoing
- Between January 15,
1996 and her death on April 15. there were at least 18 calls made
to the Sheriff to report Avelino's crimes against Teresa. In addition
to Teresa, there were a number of adult witnesses to nearly all
these incidents. These adult witnesses were not only willing to
help, they themselves frequently went to or called the Sonoma
Valley Sheriffs. In addition, Teresa would deliver her own handwritten
accounts documenting events to the Sheriff's substation.
In one typical incident, on January 23 Avelino had blocked Teresa's
car into a parking space with his car making it impossible for
her to get out. Teresa asked her friend to call the Sheriff. The
deputy arrived, Teresa showed the deputy Avelino's car blocking
her's in a way clearly meant to prevent her exit, and she also
showed the deputy a copy of the restraining order. The deputy
told Avelino to move his car. Avelino told the Sheriff he would
do it. But the deputy left before even seeing to it that Teresa
escaped. Avelino didn't move his car.
Within the hour. Teresa and her friend had to call the Sheriff
again. This time the responding deputy yelled at Avelino, and
told him he had to move the car or go to jail. The Sheriff waited
for Avelino to move the car, waited for Teresa to leave, and then
the Sheriff left.
- By all accounts of
every witness and everyone who called the Sheriff in the last
three months and was present when the deputies arrived, the Sheriff's
deputies would sometimes scribble a few notes, sometimes read
the restraining order (which contained her statements of ongoing
rapes), only once actually sat down to talk with Teresa, never
arrested, cited, or charged, and almost always gave another excuse
as to why they couldn't do anything.
Sheriff's deputies said they had to catch him in the act, but
many times they did catch him in the act. Then they would say
Teresa had to put everything in writing, and when she did, the
next excuse would be ~Well, how do we know he wasn't just following
your car by chance'. This despite the fact that for virtually
all events there were adult witnesses present and willing to verify.
Almost always the deputies would end the contact b~ saying, We'll
talk to him. According to those who were present when the deputies
would talk to Avelino, the deputies told him the same thing every
time, You do it again, and you're going to jail.
- There were only two
occasions that a Sheriff's report was logged into the DA's office.
On all other occasions, it appears the Sheriff's deputies didn't
write reports at all, despite the serious nature of the crimes
being committed. The first report dated January 31 contains Teresa's
report of numerous violations of the restraining order, the statement
of a corroborating witness, and information that Avelino was aware
of the restraining order. The second crime report dated February
22 contains Teresa's report of multiple violations of the restraining
order, physical evidence, the names of witnesses, and a supplemental
report dated February 24 of more stalking by Avelino.
Both reports contain Teresa's request for prosecution. And both
reports contain incidents covered by a valid restraining order.
The deputies had clear authority to arrest on both occasions and
chose not to.
The District Attorney's Office rejected filing charges on both
reports. But internal law enforcement documents sent to us anonimously
show that charges should have been filed on both occasions. These
documents also show that both the Sheriff's Office and the District
Attorney's Office have lied to the public about their actions
in every press interview they have given.
- In ,just the last
three months of Teresa's life, with the gravity and number of
Avelino's criminal acts and threats that were reported to the
Sheriff, with all the witnesses willing to help, with Teresa's
clear and constant documentation, the Sheriff could have arrested
Avelino any day of the week, with or without a restraining order.
And they could have picked from any number or combination of charges;
felony stalking (stalking is an automatic felony when the victim
is covered by a restraining order), terrorist threats, vandalism,
breaking and entering, restraining order violations, trespassing,
false imprisonment, and more.
Avelino laughed at Teresa for continuously calling the Sheriff,
and he laughed and laughed at the Sheriff. The Sheriff protects
me, he would scoff to Teresa and her family, More than they protect
- According to witnesses,
the Sheriff knew about and had investigated an incident where
Avelino had shot a man through the head about six years ago. The
Sheriff had also responded to other incidents where Avelino had
threatened Teresa and others with gun in hand.