ERIKA GONZALEZ, 43, LOS ANGELES, CAREGIVER/HOUSEWIFE, LATINA, SHE/HER
CALÓ NEWS interviewed Erika Gonzalez and the responses were translated through the translation services of Laurie Carrilo.
Erika Gonzalez flips through a half empty photo album. It is filled with a lifetime of memories of going to iHop for breakfast, eating strawberry pancakes with a strawberry smoothie, or going to the beach on Sundays.
But in this photo album filled with a lifetime of memories, Gonzalez is more than halfway through her grandson’s life and less than halfway through the album. Her grandson, Angel Gonzalez, died earlier this year, on June 5th, along with his 23-year-old mother, Yesli Velazquez Gonzalez. Los Angeles Sheriff’s suspect Yesli’s boyfriend of a year and a half, Rigoberto Covarrubias, to be the primary suspect. The deaths have left her mom and his grandmother with a house filled with mementos and two empty chairs at the dinner table.
2022 marks the 35th year of the domestic violence toll-free hotline and the designation of October as Domestic Violence awareness month. The hotline, created in 1987, receives approximately 20,000 daily calls nationwide.
When asked why her daughter stayed with her then-boyfriend, Gonzalez could only choke out a few words as she held back her tears.
“Through fear, I think.”
In the entryway to Gonzalez’s home sits a brick shrine decorated with two Virgin Marys on its left flank. They were both Yesli’s. A massive photograph of Angel and Yesli hangs in the middle, with a bag of Cheetos for Yesli and a Bocadin chocolate bar for Angel. A white tablecloth runs down the center of the altar, accompanied by flowers, mementos, and a satchel bearing the words “Forever In Our Hearts Yesli and Angel,” written in a gold glitter pen.
The investigation into the murder of Yesli and Angel is currently moving forward, according to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. Detective Jason Marx said the case had been filed with the District Attorney, and that Covarrubias is currently not in custody. A warrant has been filed for his arrest.
The shrine, built by Gonzalez’s husband, sits near a portrait of a smiling Angel holding up a certificate of achievement. He had finished elementary school just weeks before his death. On the ground are a pair of cowboy boots, purchased at a swap meet, the same boots he wore to his last birthday party.
Angel was born in 2016 to a soon-to-be graduating mom. His affinity for all things cake and strawberry became evident at a young age, from his insistence to stay at grandma’s house when she was making flan to the tres leches with walnut cake he asked for every birthday. He celebrated his sixth birthday on May 21, wearing a white cowboy hat, a blue flannel shirt, black cowboy boots, and a bright red Ferrari cake.
The last time Gonzalez saw her daughter and grandson was also the first time she had seen them in over a month. Covarrubias would often forbid her from seeing them, Gonzalez explained. This was the case for Angel’s fifth birthday party, where Gonzalez cannot be spotted in any of the group photos.
“He was happy here with us but when the boyfriend came he didn’t want to leave,” Gonzalez explains. So on Friday, June 3rd, when her daughter called and asked for her to pick up Angel, Gonzalez could only nod her head as she giggled in admission that she was very excited to see her grandson. That afternoon they rode around Los Angeles rush hour traffic, as their GPS continued to take them in the wrong direction.
Within 30 minutes of arriving home Yesli picked up Angel, they got in the car, and Gonzalez would never see them alive again.
On Sunday, June 5, Gonzalez said “I felt anxious all day, but I thought it was something else.”
When her daughter didn’t come to work the following Monday and wasn’t picking up her phone, Gonzalez went to their Baldwin Park home unaware of how her life was about to change. She remembers TV news cameras, hoards of people, and no parking. A Telemundo reporter approached Gonzalez, but their conversation ended quickly, as four words caused Gonzalez to burst out screaming.
“He’s with God now.”
In the months following, Gonzalez hasn’t slept much. She keeps Angel’s favorite stuffed animal, a teddy bear he had given her for Mother’s Day which he then reclaimed, by her bedside. “I tried therapy,” she said, “but in the end, nothing really helps because every day I’m remembering them.”