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Changing Seasons, Colors of Pain

As told by Connie Gonzalez and written by Vanessa Luna-Marquez, Program Manager, MADD West Texas

The autumn leaves are slowing starting to change color, for families across the nation, this season starts with fall and Halloween decorations that adorn front doors and homes. For my family and I, this season bring colors and feelings of pain and loss.

My daughter, Angela, or Angel as I lovingly called her, was born on May 26, 1987. Angel was scheduled to be delivered naturally and I had an emergency c-section. It was evident that even as a newborn, she was determined to be the focus of attention. My Angel came in a whopping 10 pounds when she entered the world.

Angel was my second daughter. Her older sister and my eldest daughter, Estrella or Starr was her protector and second mommy. As the girls grew older, their roles flipped, Angel became the nurturing protector to Starr and Starr became dependent on Angel. You see, Starr was shy, while Angel was a social butterfly and gregarious. Angel never knew a stranger, she wanted to befriend everyone. This is an attribute she possessed as a young child until her young adulthood.

When Angel was eighteen years old, she embarked on the biggest journey of her life – motherhood. Angel loved being pregnant and would read to her baby belly and speak to her baby lovingly. When the baby, her son arrived, Angel and I as a Grandmother, were beyond excited to welcome him into the family. Before her son was born, Angel and Starr, visited often sharing about dreams, goals, and adventure for the baby. They named Angel’s baby boy together, his name is Evan Ryan.

Left Top: Estrella (Starr) and Angela (Angel) as children. Right Top: Angel, Connie, Starr, and Evan – this was the last Thanksgiving with celebrating with Angel. Bottom: Angel and Evan after arriving home from the hospital after Evan’s birth.

On October 29, 2009, I went to work. I remember curling my hair on this date, it was not a special day, but I remember doing this, because when I returned home from my daughter’s Starr’s friends graduation pinning, I remember being exhausted and did not want to shower and wash my curls and hairspray. I went to bed. At 2:10 am on October 30th, I was awoken by a call to my cell phone. I woke up in a daze and the caller ID registered as my daughter Angel’s cell number. I answered and it was not Angel, on the other end of the phone was Angel’s friend, Veronica. I heard sirens in the background and asked her to put Angel on the phone. She said Angel was in a car crash and I was not able to understand her as she was crying. I asked her to put an officer on the line since I heard sirens. The officer who came on the line said your daughter was in an accident and gave me the location.

I lived minutes away from the location the officer provided, and I drove quickly. I so desperately wanted to see Angel and comfort her before the ambulance took her to the hospital.

When I arrived, it was an eerie calm, there were no sirens. I remember that piercing moment and it replays in my mind daily.

I approached the officers whose backs were facing to me. When they turned around to face me, I could see a white sheet draped on the floor in the distance. I told the officers, “I was the Mother.” And an officer responded, “which one?” Then I made the heart dropping discovery that there was another white sheet.

The deceased victims involved did not have an ID, so I was asked to go home to obtain a photo of my daughter for identification purposes. My drive home seemed like hours. The entire drive I spent hoping and praying it was not my Angel and she would call me on my cell any minute.

She did not call.

I returned with the photo of Angel and provided it to the officers. I was told to wait in the car as it was cold morning. The first fall freeze settled in that morning.

My ex-husband waited for news outside, while I was sitting in the car, I heard him scream. I ran out and was told that one of the victim’s was my Angel.

My baby was killed. I did not want to leave my little girl. I did not want for her to be alone, but I was not allowed to stay.

My life came to a screeching halt.

I had to then carry the burden of telling my daughter, Starr, and my grandson, that Angel was dead.

Angel was not the only victim in this crash. Angel’s friend, Orland Figuero was also killed. Orlando was a son, brother, and father.

Nearly three years after the crash, the same numbers of years that Evan was when Angel, his Mommy was killed, justice was served. A jury found the offender guilty of two counts of Intoxicated Manslaughter and he was sentenced to 12 years in the state penitentiary.

There is absolutely no amount of time that will ever bring back Angel or Orlando. My pain will not go away or be lessened. This sentence will not give Evan a relationship he was robbed of by this crime. Evan’s memory of his mom is playing with her long black hair – that is his only memory he has of his Mommy.

I share my story to educate on the dangers of impaired driving, but to also ask for help. This offender will be considered for parole review in the next months to see if he will be considered for early release.

Each year, my family and I gather signatures for a petition that we send to the parole board. This year because of COVID-19 pandemic, we are not able to and we are hoping to collect signatures online. I am asking that you please consider taking a moment to sign our electronic petition to keep the offender in for the full 12-year sentence.

My family and I would greatly appreciate your support.