Nectar in a Sieve
afternoon on May 22, 2005, Antonio and Lilia pulled into the
serene landscapes under the Geyser's overpass; a perfect Sunday-outing-spot
made all the sweeter because so few people know about it.
But like a nightmare's ambush on a dream, their day was dashed
by the site of a young woman battling for her life in a car
parked nearby. A man's arm squeezed ferociously on her neck.
With the other arm, the man wielded a knife.
jumped out of his car. The young woman began screaming to
him for help. Antonio rushed to their car window, yelling,
ordering the man to stop. In a murderous pitch, the man now
turned on Antonio, cursing and menacing, threatening with
he couldn't prevail, fearing for Lilia and for the child they
had with them, Antonio jumped back into his car and sped into
town to the Cloverdale Police. No one at the station spoke
Spanish. Through a fireman-translator, Antonio urgently told
Cloverdale police about the flailing woman begging for help,
about the man's murderous rage and strangling grip; the mayhem,
the knife in his hand!
happened next is so heart-stopping it may at first seem inexplicable
to any human mind or soul. Cloverdale Police flat out refused
to respond. They argued to a stunned Antonio that the location
of the incident - (just three cop car minutes up the highway)
- was outside their jurisdiction. The excuse for not responding
to a murder-in-progress was as lame as it was unthinkable
- especially in this rural zone where agencies often cover
each other's calls. Instead, Cloverdale police called Sonoma
County Sheriff 's Department; though the location, just yards
over the Mendocino County line, is out of Sonoma County Sheriff's
to Sheriff dispatch records, Cloverdale Police called Sonoma
County Sheriff at 1:18 pm. Sonoma County Sheriff arrived at
the scene ten minutes later at 1:28 pm.
to Cloverdale records, at 1:29 pm Sonoma County Sheriff called
back to Cloverdale Police for assistance. Cloverdale Police
arrived on the scene at 1:32 pm. At the very least, Cloverdale's
initial refusal to respond cost seven minutes in response
the Sheriff's deputy surveyed the car, he found Haille's dead
body inside, and the man still hovering over her in the car.
The deputy arrested 27-year-old Atticus Reynolds for the murder
of 19-year-old Jasa 'Haille' Anguillo.
from Atticus Reynolds, no one wanted Haille to die! No one!
In talking to people following the murder - from officials
to passers by, - it was clear that Haille's death, for however
brief a time, stirred a troubled oneness in people's hearts;
a stunned bewilderment at the awful town-wide concussion from
a young person's death, with looks of absolute clarity that
the situation should never have gotten that far. It's there,
in those shared understandings, no matter how time will once
again bury them in daily routines and petty interests, that
our courage must be gathered to make the changes so this cannot
make no mistake. Whether or not a proper response from Cloverdale
Police on May 22 would have saved Haille's life may never
be known. But Cloverdale's refusal to respond to Haille's
murder-in-progress is no more mysterious nor inexplicable
than the scores of similar failures by other officials that
led directly and recklessly to Haille's murder.
murder of Jasa Haille Anguillo was in-progress and preventable
at so many points along the way. And so to is the murder of
the next young woman in our community, whose future murder
is already a murder-in-progress, well along in the making,
if people don't act now.
and Haille's family have chronicled events leading up to Haille's
murder most of all to alert you to this next young women's
murder-in-progress, and to what needs to be done to prevent
tell you Haille's story for other reasons, too. From the day
Haille was slain to this writing, the Press Democrat has written
a total of only 12 sentences about Haille's murder. No 19-year-old
murdered in our community can be allowed to be so perfunctorily
swept off the stage of human existence. For the press to neglect
exploring the significance and circumstances of Haille's life
and murder, is, itself, a sinister cornerstone on the path
to the next woman's murder. It's a deadly statement of disregard
that cannot be allowed to stand.
for all of you, young and old, who miss Haille terribly, and
who mourn the wrongful loss of her young life, we hope this
account can begin to honor Haille and ease the pain.
report focuses particular attention on the criminal justice
system. To be sure, our schools, neighborhoods, churches,
families and other institutions have important roles in ending
violence against women. But once there is violence or threats
of violence, only the criminal justice system has the mission,
the power, and the authority needed to put the criminality
want to thank all of you who put aside personal concerns to
talk with us. Because many official documents were closed
to public view as part of the open homicide investigation,
we couldn't have put this report together without your help.
and Roses, Jasmine and Geraniums
so many times over the last two weeks, 20-year-old Sandra
finds herself standing dazed among the late spring blooms
surrounding her home. Just six weeks ago she had come home
to find her good friend Haille energetically digging and planting
the surprise garden. In the weeks that followed, Haille dropped
by again and again in her usual unannounced style. Sandra
manages a laugh. "Haille wanted to make sure the plants
were still alive." she says. Now, every which way Sandra
turns, the lavender and roses, the jasmine and geraniums,
are all randy and riotous with life. And Haille is dead in
The news hit them
all with a single, devastating blow. Haille, Sandra, and a
couple dozen other Sebastopol youth had forged a tight ring
of friendships that they've held together for years, even
as they attended different schools, or moved to other towns.
The moment one heard the news, they all heard. On May 22,
just north of Cloverdale, under the Highway 101 Geysers overpass,
Atticus Reynolds strangled Haille to death.
Haille, who "moved
when the spirit moved her"! "Nothing could hold
her down," Haille. Haille, the most independent and self
reliant of the group. Haille, who had just returned from the
belly dancing hafla (celebration). Who "always keeps
in touch with her friends, no matter where she is". Haille,
who "experiments with everything and lands on her feet".
the delight her friends always took in Haille's bohemian spirit,
more than one of them had told Haille more than once, and
in no uncertain terms. "Atticus is no good for you, Haille."
"Get away from him!"
"I can handle
it," Haille would often reply, "I can handle Atticus."
In quieter conversations, however, right from the beginning,
Haille was clear and open about why she was with him. Haille
wanted to help Atticus with his emotional problems. In fact,
in ultimate youthful naiveté, Haille was absolutely
sure she could help him.
But by mid-April
of this year, as she broke off her two-year relationship with
Atticus, even Haille began to realize she was in over her
A month before
the murder, Haille began trying to protect herself and others
from Atticus' escalating rages. Like the day she called her
Aunt from the general store where she worked in Cloverdale.
"Haille called to warn me that Atticus had come by the
store in a rage and was on his way to my house to pick up
something he had left here," says her aunt. "Haille
told me to put it in a bag, and to leave it down at the end
of the driveway."
Haille began protecting
herself, too: by moving from one location to another, by hiding
from him, by cutting off communication with Atticus, by seeking
help from police, by asking people to be at her side. But
as so often happens in domestic violence' cruelest irony,
it's precisely when the victim does take definitive steps
to leave that the abuser escalates to an obsessive, single-minded
hunt, and raises the stakes to kill.
It's doubtful any
19 year-old in the world could have navigated an escape from
the veritable one man crime wave that was Atticus Reynolds.
And it's unlikely that either Haille or any of her friends
and family knew the full extent of Atticus' criminality. By
his 27th birthday there was hardly a crime category in the
penal code that Atticus Reynolds hadn't crossed.
But what no one
could have begun to imagine is the dizzying number of police,
prosecutors, probation officers, judges, diversion programs,
and jurisdictions that had had Atticus firmly in their grasp,
and then carelessly let him go; again and again, crime after
crime, paving Atticus' murderous path with impunities, all
the way up to the barren spot under the Geysers bridge where
Haille was strangled to death.
Three weeks before
the murder, unaware of most of this, and doomed by all of
it, when Haille heard that Atticus had just been jailed for
assault with a deadly weapon, she just cried out in anguish
to Rhonda, "Why didn't Atticus' mom tell me how crazy,
dangerous he was?"
the Quiet Eye of the Storm
is Haille's step mom; "my bonus mom" as Haille called
her. Rhonda met Haille's dad, Mike, when Haille was 8-years-old.
Together, with their modest income off landscaping, and a
deeper commitment than most to the west county ethos of harmony
and love, the families merged.
By 13 years of
age, Haille was thriving on the nurturance of home. Her bumpy
early years seemed behind her. She shared her parents' love
of working with plants, and spiced the family's life with
her own special flare for words.
Happy Birthday!" she wrote in a colorful card to her
dad that year,
you're feeling especially young today".
so very glad I've been able to spend the last couple years
with you. I'm looking forward to lots more time with you.
Hopefully, it will be at work, or even better on vacation.
I'm so excited to get old with my brothers and sisters.
Thank you for bringing them into my life. Thank you for
all the knowledge and experience you've shared. I wouldn't
be where I am now without yours and Rhonda's guidance."
have nothing left to do but get smarter and happier.
The future is bright!!! "
Now, in a razor's
cut of time, Rhonda finds herself standing here, in the dark
shadows of this cement cavern under the freeway. Just to the
east, there's no more pristine panorama of California's lion-colored
hills. Just to the west, the redwood forest shades the Russian
River headwaters a tumble with late Spring rains.
With all the beautiful,
quiet turnouts in the area why would anyone stop their car
here on this barren patch beneath the freeway, unless with
malice in mind? A tall, flower laden cross driven in the hard
ground stares back at Rhonda, guarding the answers to a million
other questions, why.
By chance, or perhaps
by fate of seeking relief in the same silent eye of the storm,
a sheriff's deputy pulls into the site. His head down, he
greeted Rhonda. "We've been trying to get Atticus for
years," he confides. "But we just haven't been very
successful at breaking into the crank scene."
It was such a painful
mix of genuine and wrong. How, with Atticus having been reported
to law enforcement for years for a helter-skelter trail of
poaching, drugs, arson, rapes, restraining order violations,
death threats, arson threats, assault with a deadly weapon,
failure to appear, resisting arrest, auto theft, violations
of probation, stalking, harassment, false police reports,
and now a homicide so fresh it strangles the air, how could
the officer still only see Atticus Reynolds in the myopic
lens of a drug case? (see Atticus
partial criminal record)
Whisper in the Wind
and exposing the realities of young women's lives is like
an archeological excavation in harsh terrain. Centuries of
sexist sediment have to be heaved aside, and fragile footprints
lifted from sand. Even then, some of the most searing events
of women's lives leave no more trace than a whisper in the
Two weeks after
the murder, the diner on the edge of town seemed fully reclaimed
by normalcy. The waitress engaged in lively chat with a customer,
the cook bustled in the kitchen, and in the first split second
when I asked the owner if we could talk about Haille, his
look was, 'Sorry, sorry, I got business, business'. Then,
as quickly, his eyes filled with sorrow and he waved towards
a booth in the back.
Haille had just
started waitressing at the restaurant, he said. On the morning
of May 17, Atticus barged in while Haille was working. He
was belligerent, said Mark the owner. He was screaming crazily
at Haille, very hyped up, yelling at her that she shouldn't
be working here, accusing her of working for the government.
Mark said Haille was frightened. He said he couldn't get Atticus
to leave, so he called the Cloverdale police. When the police
came, he said, they "shooed Atticus away". Mark
said he didn't know what happened next, because he'd been
feeling sick. So he'd gone in the back to rest before the
officer had left the restaurant.
But what did happen
next was so upsetting to Haille that she got on her cell phone
and called her friend Barbara while the officer was still
there. What Haille said on that phone call was so disturbing
to Barbara that two weeks later as Barbara talked with us,
she was still boiling with the emotion. Barbara said she could
hear the officer's voice in the background of Haille's call,
and, in fact, she recognized the officer by voice. (The officer's
name given us by Barbara matched the dispatch record we obtained
According to Barbara,
Haille was extremely upset. She called because she was beside
herself that the officer was refusing to help her. Barbara
said Haille was begging the officer to write her 'one of those
24 or 72 hour restraining orders' and the officer wouldn't
give it to her. (In all likelihood, Haille was referring to
what's called an Emergency Protective Order, a short term
protective order that police can obtain on the street with
a phone call to the on-call judge, a protective order designed
precisely the kind of situation Haille was in.) Barbara, herself,
was so distraught as she recalled the phone call, she kept
angrily repeating, that the officer "shouldn't get away
But there was more
than just Atticus' stalking at the restaurant, and the officer's
refusal to help, that fueled the urgency for both Barbara
and Haille that day. Just days before, Haille had come to
Barbara's home shaking. According to Barbara, Haille told
her that Atticus had just taken her out to an isolated creek.
He had pushed her flat on the ground, pinned her under his
knee, and pretended to strangle her. Haille told Barbara that
she had struggled in vain against his grip, but couldn't get
free. In the course of the struggle, Atticus leaned over and
whispered in her ear, 'I'm not going to kill you this time,
but I am going to kill you next time'.
The incident so
terrified Haille, that in the days that followed she would
recount this story to one friend after another. Others put
the date of that event at May 13. But like so many teenage
young adults bent on making it on their own, Haille never
told anyone in her family
It's unknown if
Haille told the officer about Atticus' threats to kill her
or his mock killing attack, or if the officer had even gave
Haille half a chance to tell him. As it was, even without
any information from Haille at all, the officer had ample
cause to arrest Atticus. Atticus was on probation*
for two other crimes, so he was arrestable just on that basis
alone, or the officer could have arrested Atticus for trespassing,
or for driving without a license.
But, can there
be any doubt? If the officer had given even the most minimal
attention to Haille's frightened pleas for help, if he had
asked Haille even the simplest question about what was wrong,
or about why she was asking for protection, Haille would have
given the officer all the information needed for the officer
to put it all together and nail Atticus on much more serious
charges of domestic violence (for the May 13 attack) and/or
stalking and/or terrorist threats - or most appropriately,
on all three.
The officer even
had unusual advantages in the case. He had the restaurant
owner as eye witness to corroborate key elements of Atticus'
menacing behavior and Haille's level of fear. And he would
have had 'outcry witnesses', i.e. the friends Haille had told
about the attack and threats to kill.
But, instead, and
in direct violation of long-standing state law (Penal Code
Section 13730) which requires that police write a report on
"all domestic violence-related calls", the officer
wrote nothing at all.
It's at this point
in the story, or at the same point in hundreds of similar
stories we've recounted of police dismissal of domestic violence,
that people stop us in disbelief. Why, they ask, would police
ignore a visibly frightened women's pleas for help, especially
when the suspect is a local guy with such a bad history? Especially
when the guy is right there where they can grab him with ease?
There are many layers to the answer, all of which have to
be remedied in order to save women's lives. But since we're
just beginning Haille's story, here's an answer in brief.
Because, by not
asking questions and turning their backs on the first hint
of domestic violence, police can save themselves the trouble
of writing the report and of making a trip to the jail. Because
for many police, their least favorite task is listening to
what they view as 'emotional females carrying on against hapless
males'. Because law enforcement remains a locked down enclave
of male dominated culture and sexist beliefs. Because by ignoring
domestic violence the officer can get right back on the streets
to deal with 'real crime'.
domestic violence is invisible. No report, no record, no muss,
no fuss, no trace, no tracks, no domestic violence, no accountability.
Because the officer also knows, these victims are so vulnerable,
they're very unlikely to find an effective way to protest
their mistreatment by a cop. If it hadn't been for Haille's
own sense of justice, and her calling a friend to protest
the officer's response in the officer's presence, Haille's
pleas, like the voices of so many other women and girls, would
have been as lost as a whisper in the wind.
People tend to
see law enforcement abuse of power only in the over-exercise
of that power; such as excessive-use-of force, planting evidence,
or overcharging a case. What so many fail to see is that there's
as much oppression and harm done when police systematically
fail to implement their powers. When police refuse to act,
as they do so often in crimes of violence against women, there
is nowhere else women can turn for protection. It's because
police turning away from domestic violence is so widespread,
and the resulting harm so great, that California enacted the
specific law mandating that police write reports on all domestic
violence related incidents.
It didn't surprise
us to find police disregard as a prelude to Haille's homicide.
We've found it in the path leading up to domestic violence
homicides of every women's case we've probed. And we see it
daily in our work with victims of violence against women,
without much improvement for years.
What was a surprise
was seeing the extent to which critical public safety programs,
in just the last couple years, have been gutted from within,
contributing not only to Haille's death, but compromising
the safety of the entire community, as the following will
on probation means that you have already been convicted
of a crime, but instead of going to jail you've been
deemed eligible for a chance to be out and about.- pending
good conduct, pending obeying all laws, pending a host
of other conditions the judge may place on your behavior.
Being on probation also means you can be arrested at
any time for the most minimal infraction and placed
in jail on a no bail hold - because you've already been
convicted and you've blown your chance.
Reynolds has been perpetually on court probation for
one crime or another for the last five years. (Court
probation is probation monitored by the courts instead
of by a probation officer.) For the last five months
right up to the day of Haille's murder, Atticus was
on two court probations for two separate crimes, one
for criminal conspiracy in Sonoma County and one for
auto theft in Mendocino county. At any time, Atticus
could have been arrested for mere misconduct, booked
on a violation of probation, and held in jail on a no
bail hold. Though this option was available to police
over the last five years, police never used even this
most obvious tack to ensnare Atticus.
Story Part 2