July 17 is the best of days in the Gaytan household, because it marks the birthday of 12-year-old Ian, who lives with his grandparents in a doublewide mobile home on a dirt road in Española. And July 17 is the worst of days, because it marks the anniversary of the shooting death of his 20-year-old mother, Jasmine Gaytan, at the hands of his father, Leroy Fresquez, Jr.
It has been left to Olga Gaytan, a 55-year-old immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico, to make sense of the contradictions. “People say I’m his grandma, but I always say ‘No, I’m his mother,’” said Gaytan, who stepped in and adopted her grandson following the 2009 murder of her daughter. Jasmine and Leroy had known each other ever since their days at Carlos F. Vigil Middle School, the same school Ian now attends. It is the school where the two of them met, and the school from which they both dropped out in seventh grade.
Organizations that provide shelter, advocacy and support for survivors of intimate partner violence, stalking and sexual assault will start losing money later this week because of both the government shutdown and because Congress let the Violence Against Women Act lapse over a month ago. Nearly 35 local agencies provide care in New Mexico, and each and every one receives federal money. Most of the services are funded by a combination of direct federal, state and local grants. The Department of Justice (DOJ), for example, provides grants, either directly or as part of the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission (CVRC). New Mexico operations will continue normally until Jan.
If Gov. Susana Martinez signs a Senate bill into law, New Mexico will become the 46th state to specifically define strangulation as a serious violent crime. State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored Senate Bill 61, called the Legislature’s unanimous support of the measure “a monumental achievement.” A former prosecutor, Ivey-Soto said he became aware of what he called the “insidiousness” of strangulation. It’s a powerful type of violence that signals to a victim “I have your very life in my hands,” he said. He credited the success of SB 61 to an aggressive, yearslong effort by victims advocates to educate lawmakers, attorneys, law enforcement officers and medical professionals about the prevalence of this potentially deadly act, which affects thousands of people in the state — sometimes with lifelong symptoms of brain trauma.