UPDATE: The video from June 19th’s visit is now posted below. You’ll want to see it.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 60 days since since her estranged husband broke into the home of Veronica Galaviz, and tried to kill her before setting her house on fire and then committing suicide, but that’s what happened on April 21, 2010. The story of her estranged husband’s repeated violations of a court-ordered but unenforced protective order at the hands of the Rowlett, Texas Police Department is hard to hear.
After repeated reported violations of a judge’s November 2009 order, instead of arresting her husband and letting a judge decide the facts of the matter, the RPD decided that was their job and that there wasn’t enough evidence, even with Ms. Galaviz’s testimony that it was indeed him in her driveway clearly stabbing the rear right tire of a car parked in front of her home.
I became acquainted with Ms. Galaviz through our mutual attorney, Julie Lucio of Lucio, LeFleur & Associates.
The day of the event in Rowlett, I was contacted by Julie Lucio and we agreed to hold a news conference as soon as possible to help raise awareness about what did not happen in Ms. Galaviz’s case–she was not protected by the Rowlett Police Department by their failing to enforce the Dallas County Protective Order. The PD’s response to our news event was that they felt they’d investigated the matter thoroughly and that had they been able to find any conclusive evidence, they’d have leaped into action. Even though Ms. Galaviz’s concerns had been validated in the worst way, there was no statement of regret from the police.
During the news conference, and you can read this article that was published about a week later, Ms. Lucio contends the police didn’t do what they were supposed to do in this matter–when a person reports that a protective order is violated, they’re supposed to make the arrest and let the judge in the case decide whether or not there’s been a violation.
Our Mission To Raise Awareness
Henceforth, I shall refer to Ms. Galaviz as “Vero.” That’s the name I’ve come to know her by over the past 58 days. Vero knows in her heart that God has given her a second chance to live in order that she might do his will and help make a difference in this area of concern. Twice we have sat for a couple of hours in a local Starbucks and talked about what happened, how she’s recovering, and more importantly, what to do next.
During our first meeting we talked mostly about a broader vision and made a general plan of action that included reaching out to local domestic violence centers, reaching out to a local legislator to talk about what might could be done from a legislative standpoint, and just talked about how she was coping. It was also around this time that I was able to get her several bags of clothes from friends who wore her size. She was still struggling with having escaped with the clothes on her back.
The second time we met, she’d been doing some research and found the statutes in Texas law that apply to victim’s rights, protective orders and criminal procedure–Articles 56.02, 56.04, 56.07 and 56.08.
It was during this meeting that Vero talked about what she says that’s greatly wrong for most victims of domestic abuse: She said most victims are too in shock over an incident to make a call to the police. She said if not that, they’re also afraid to make a call to authorities for fear of retribution after the police have come and gone. And she said the other internal argument is that “if I avoid it and not call the police, there’s the hope that it will all just go away.”
Day 59–Meeting Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas
From my days as the communications director of Dallas ISD, I remain good friends with Rep. Rafael Anchia, who in the early days of my time in DISD was one of the district’s trustees. His chief of staff is Liz Zornes, the wife of former DISD Board President, Ken Zornes, who I always had a very open and candid relationship with while he was on the board. As a result of the first meeting with Vero, I contacted Liz and asked for a meeting with Rep. Anchia. Yesterday, Vero, myself and Rep. Anchia met in his Dallas office for about 30 minutes and set a new strategy in place.
It’s time for some additional research. Maybe I should have been doing more of that over the past 50 or so days, but Rep. Anchia quickly developed a plan of which I shall discuss further in a future post. But with his help, we are now moving closer to putting into motion what Vero feels called to make happen and that is quite fulfilling.
But there was one thing we’ve been talking about that up until this morning we’d not done–Go back out to the house and do a video about going through it.
Day 60–Returning to the Ashes
This morning at 9 a.m. Vero and I met at what’s left of her house in Rowlett. As noted before, her estranged husband broke in about 1:30 a.m. on April 21, 2010 and attempted to shoot Vero with a shotgun. She was able to get out of the house and run next door for the neighbors to call the police. While next door, he lit the house on fire and then turned the shotgun on himself.
The video I shot is being edited and will be put up here only with the permission of Vero. As you can imagine, today’s visit was very hard for her. Repeatedly on videotape today she said, “Instead of getting easier, it get’s harder and harder to come out here.”
In the fire, Vero lost her dog, Sam, who was in a crate in the living room. She lost her composure when she stood in the spot where Sam died. The photo you see of her kneeling is her still feeling the grief of her dog being gone. She also lost her cat, Lilly, in the fire. She doesn’t know if Lilly was killed inside the home or was able to escape and find another home in the neighborhood. She has no closure on this loss. (UPDATE: Per Vero’s sister, I would like to add her dear cat Molly was lost in the fire as well as her friend David’s dog.)
We arrived out front and walked to the back left of the home. The wooden fence of her backyard is charred and half burnt. The windows of the house are gone and the roof has collapsed on most of the house. Within just a few moments, Vero was in tears. Using discretion, I’d record her when she talked, and turn the camera away and off when she could not hold back the emotions. She wants her story told, but she also wants to continue to heal and find something of an inner peace. I did my best to respect that.
We walked into what’s left of her bedroom. She said it was here, facing the doorway to the living room, where she met her estranged husband that night. When she opened her door, he was standing in the living room with a shotgun pointed at her face yelling that he was going to kill her. What he didn’t know, was that Vero’s close friend, David, was also staying in the house. He came from his blindside and began to wrestle with him and the gun. This is what allowed Vero to get past him and run for help.
David, however, has lost much of his pinky on one hand. It was shot off by the shot gun. But he also was able to get out of the house and flee toward next door with Vero’s husband shooting at him twice before he went over the fence of the next yard.
It was then that Vero believes he went back into the house, doused it with gasoline, lit the fire, and then shot himself. The house immediately was engulfed in flames and Sam, the dog, and a couple other animals in the home also passed away. Vero still calls her pets “her babies.” And she still goes to tears when ever she refers to them.(The photo to the right is her kneeling in the area where Sam’s crate was.)
After walking through the ashes of the bedroom, her living room and past what’s left of her kitchen (the TV, oven and fridge are all melted metal–and her large leather sofa is nothing now but ashes and a series of metal wires and levers all rusting away in the rubble. You can see one of the rusting levers of a recliner next to her in the photo to the right.)
Into the foyer we walked and stopped to look into what once was her dining room. Immediately, I began to smell a foul odor and before I could say anything, she said, “This is where they found his remains.” I’d never smelt the smell of burnt death before, but have read about it in novels. It’s not a pleasant smell. We moved on to the guest bedroom, guest bath, laundry room, and into her office area. There is something about French Doors that I just enjoy, and even with her’s being singed and missing their glass or lattice work, there was still something inviting about what clearly had been her workspace.
On Vero’s desk were several framed photos. The first one she turned over was a picture of her and her husband during happier times. She held it contemptuously for a moment and then threw it at the front window. The drapes and what remains of a shear caught it, but not before it banged loudly and fell to the ashen floor. It was quite an expressive moment. A moment of anger. A moment of I am here, and you, thankfully, are not.
We then made our way to the back of the house once again. It’s there that we did some wrap up video of her talking about what happened. A woman who when you sit and talk to her often has been told Jennifer Anniston resembles her, stood there in the sun dressed in a grey top, jeans and black shoes that in some ways resembled a ballet slipper. As she had touched things and cried, she now had a few streaks of black upon her face from the ashes of the house, but her emotions, raw with the cathartic pain of her visit, were much more controlled than I’ve seen them before.
We talked with her on camera for a few minutes and then as the camera stopped recording because it had run out of space, she also said, “Okay, I’m done.”
We had talked Friday about maybe having a bite to eat afterward. That wasn’t going to happen now. Too many embers that had blacked in her heart over the past 60 days once again were filled with the glow of orange-red and the white of of ash for her to talk of sitting down for a cup of coffee, much less anything to eat. She said she was filling ill and wanted to return home to rest.
And so we said our farewells again for the time-being. She wished me and the girls the best on our trip that begins Monday. After our hug goodbye, I looked her in her saddened, tear-laced eyes and asked if there was anything I could do for her. She smiled, wiped a tear and said, “You already are.”
Upon returning home, I processed the photos I’d taken and loaded the video of our visit. It gets more and more riveting each time I see the photos and the video itself. I’ve not begun editing it, but I did send Vero the pictures from this morning, and asked for permission to share the current events.
Upon our return, on June 29, Vero and I will head to the Waco area for her first speaking engagement where she’ll begin telling her story to audiences. We all deal with the changes in our lives, the good events and the bad in different ways, but Vero said today something special. That night, “God sent his angels” to protect her and now she begins the formal journey of “sharing her miracle.”
I know, that was a long post. They say photos can speak 1,000 words. Here’s 1,001…..