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Gilded cages

Even Santa Fe women of wealth and status get trapped by domestic violence

October 14, 2009, 12:00 am

Her late husband had a successful career as an entertainer. He had never been a household name, but they had enough money to keep a $650,000 home on Tano Road. After he left her a widow, she developed a relationship with a 77-year-old man who lives and works in a studio on her property; he continues to live there, though the relationship ended two years ago, according to court papers she filed against him.

A sheriff’s deputy served a temporary protection order on the man on Sept. 29, five days after the widow claimed her tenant was found peering through her windows. When she confronted him in his studio, he body-checked her, then blocked the exit, she claims. When she tried to dial 911 for help, he made a grab for the phone; she threw it across the room and, as he chased it, took the opportunity to escape.

“He was shaking the whole time with rage,” the widow writes. “I am very afraid of him. He was a former wrestler, and in the army, a machine gunner.” She fears he may still keep firearms.

A hearing at the 1st Judicial District Court was scheduled for Oct. 13, as SFR went to press. The woman did not return a message.

On Sept. 27, three days after that incident, the SFPD responded to a domestic violence call not far down Tano Road in the Ridge Pointe subdivision, a slightly more modest neighborhood amid luxury condos and mansions.
It was 5:11 am.

Officer Faron Rodriguez found a 32-year-old woman running along the street, barefoot, in pajamas and “crying hysterically.”

Rodriguez saw red marks on her wrist, a cut on her lip, a fresh rug burn on her knee, and bruises. She said her boyfriend of four years, Patrick C Baca, had pinned her to the carpet and smacked her around. Baca is seven years younger than his girlfriend, and court records indicate he comes from the other side of the tracks. If anyone had financial security in their relationship, it was the woman.

The first time officers tracked Baca down, after finding his girlfriend at home with a swollen face and a torn T-shirt, he had fled to his father’s $40,000 trailer on a dirt road off W. Alameda Street. That was in 2006. Baca might have gotten away had his girlfriend’s injuries not been so obvious, and had he not told an officer to “go fuck yourself you fucking faggot” over the telephone.

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Power and control are at the center of domestic abuse, according to the national Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.

On his way to jail that night, Baca claimed his girlfriend had scratched his chest. Later, police lifted his shirt and found no scratches.

Police came again in 2007. Police reports indicate Baca had gotten drunk and screamed at his girlfriend’s son over a pool game they’d been playing.

That time, and the time before, the victim’s children called their grandparents, who called the police. SFR reached the victim, who declined to speak, except to say she’s not in contact with Baca, who is free on $3,000 bond.

These cases, like any such crimes, came to light only because someone who saw or heard the abuse contacted the authorities. From that point, a tiny fraction of the whole truth is documented as the cases enter “the system” and create a publicly available paper trail. At the end of that paper trial, assuming everyone has done their jobs, a judge hands down a sentence in the interests of justice.

Of course, the system doesn’t always work. And some abusers have the power to make problems go away.

Sometimes, neighbors don’t call the police—even when the screams come from next door. Who can hear a fight inside the next McMansion over?

Sometimes, police fail to investigate domestic calls thoroughly or don’t document the scene in detail, leaving prosecutors nothing to work with.


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