Women honored during vigil, bringing awareness to domestic violence

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Dark clouds seemed to part and skies were clear just before nightfall, just in time for a memorial of two residents who were shot and killed last year during a domestic dispute.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Jacob and Simona Lopez of Belen stand near a memorial for Stephanie Gonzales and her mother, Angela Romero, on Jan. 19. The two women were killed in a double homicide incident last January in Belen.

A dozen candles were lit on a picnic table under the gazebo last Saturday at Anna Becker Park to honor Stephanie Gonzales and her mother, Angela Romero, who were allegedly shot last January by the boyfriend of Gonzales at a home on 11th Street in Belen.

Police said the boyfriend, Mathew Chavez, shot Gonzales in the head, then chased Romero on foot down 11th Street and shot her in the head.

Gonzales died at the scene. Romero was taken to a hospital and was declared dead soon after arriving.

Chavez was apprehended a day later after being chased by an officer who spotted the suspect driving in the city limits.

More than 30 people met underneath the gazebo and shared stories to remember the lives of Gonzales and Romero, who were described as giving and loving people who went out of their way to help people.

Friends and family members wiped away tears as the group stood with lit candles and told each other stories of the women.

“They accepted anybody and everybody,” said Roxanne Romero, Stephanie’s cousin.

Roxanne helped organize the candlelight vigil to help honor the women and to take a stand against domestic violence in Valencia County.

Simona Lopez, of Belen, said she met Stephanie about 10 years ago and was the first person she made friends with after she moved to the area. She described her friend as quiet with a unique sense of humor. She said the two “did everything” together.

“She was funny in her own way,” Lopez said. “She always had that look about her.”

Others described Angela Romero as “a loyal person” who was always supportive of friends and family members.

Roxanne said her aunt stayed with her in Colorado while her son was in the hospital with a heart defect.

She said she wanted to take a stand against domestic violence and has experienced similar incidents first hand when she was a child.

At age 5, she said her and her mother stayed at the domestic violence shelter in Valencia County because her mother was in an abusive relationship.

“There was a lot of times we had to leave home and that was the only place that we could go,” Roxanne said.

In Stephanie’s case, Roxanne said the woman met her boyfriend through a mutual friend while he was serving time in prison. When he got out, the two decided to have a more serious relationship. She said the pair had been dating about five months before the fatal incident.

Roxanne said she wants victims of domestic violence to stand up against their abusers and get out of potentially dangerous situations.

“Seek all the help that you can to get out of the situation that you are in,” she said. “I don’t want someone to stay (in an abusive) situation and then it ends up being like this and they lose their lives to violence.”


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.