Crime - Sacto 911

Abuse, rape survivors take stage for tribute to Yolo County crime victims

Norma Garcia, center, a survivor of domestic violence, wipes tears as she listens to a tribute by Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hayes, left, alongside former victim advocate Silvia Aceves, right, on Monday, April 3, 2017 during the 11th annual Crime Victims' Tribute at the Woodland Opera House in Woodland, Calif.
Norma Garcia, center, a survivor of domestic violence, wipes tears as she listens to a tribute by Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hayes, left, alongside former victim advocate Silvia Aceves, right, on Monday, April 3, 2017 during the 11th annual Crime Victims' Tribute at the Woodland Opera House in Woodland, Calif. rbyer@sacbee.com

Beronica Caffero faced the audience from the Woodland Opera House stage Monday, her still-healing body steadied by women on either side. She did not speak, but the deputy district attorney who prosecuted her abusive boyfriend did.

“If you’re strong enough to leave your abuser, you’re strong enough to rebuild your life,” said Carolyn Palumbo, a Yolo County deputy dictrict attorney.

Caffero hid the abuse for years and protected her boyfriend from the police, Palumbo told the audience. If she came forward, she said, who would believe her?

The beatings intensified with the boyfriend’s drinking – along with emotional abuse and living in motels and on the street – until last July, when a savage beating left Caffero with a broken arm and back.

“She would protect him no more,” Palumbo said, as Caferro wiped at her tears. “Who believed you?” she said, turning to Caffero. “The jury believed you.”

Caffero’s boyfriend was ultimately sentenced to 12 years in state prison, Palumbo said.

For 11 years during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which began Sunday, Yolo County’s crime victims, their families and the network of victim services staff, first responders, investigators, prosecutors and advocates have gathered inside the old opera house in downtown Woodland to share their stories, honor the people affected by crime and those who work to seek justice for them.

This year’s theme: “Strength. Resilience. Justice.”

“The idea was that the community needs to be more exposed to the people behind these crimes. This is a venue to share what’s really going on in their lives,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig. “A lot of people don’t realize crime’s impact on real people. We highlight their courage, resiliency and bravery. We try to shift the spotlight to the victim and to bring into a public setting all the people who’ve committed their lives to this.”

Yee Xiong, keynote speaker at the noon ceremony, is a rape survivor who faced her attacker at two trials before his conviction and now works with local youth.

“Resiliency is borne out of trauma, but we come back stronger,” Xiong said. “It may seem small and simple, but it’s extremely powerful. We will mourn for the victims, but our spirit will not be broken.”

Three cyclists rammed with a stolen sport utility vehicle on a rural road near West Sacramento in June 2015 were also recognized.

Alamar Cyril Houston was sentenced in Yolo Superior Court in January to 35 years in state prison for mowing down Donald Dumaine, Jonathan Jackson and Taariq Jensen during a methamphetamine-fueled, daylong crime spree that left Jensen in a medically induced coma for weeks.

No one spoke Houston’s name at the Opera House ceremony.

Matt De Moura, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said the story was about “men who defied death and a man hell-bent on hitting people. Some things can’t be broken, even by 5,000 pounds of steel.”

Following the hourlong ceremony, Dumaine reflected on the long road to trial, the months since the verdict and the people who worked on the victims’ behalf from arrest to investigation to sentencing.

“It’s been a long process,” Dumaine said. “We’re done, but the people who do this do it over and over. We’re very thankful for that.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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