TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of domestic violence and may be triggering to some people. If you need help, please contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
Laura Alegria’s 25-year-old daughter, Dometria Carbajal, was killed by her estranged husband on June 6, 2004, when he broke into her apartment, beat her in a murderous rage, and left her to die in a pool of blood. Laura is determined to protect her daughter’s biggest legacy: her toddler son, Michael, who’s a teenager now. She’s sharing her story in the hope that other abuse victims feel less alone.
Dometria had known Pat since she was 12. Life moved on, they met other people, he was in a relationship. Then, at 23, she ran into him again and fell in love. She wanted so much to have a family.
He asked for her hand on Valentine’s Day. They got married at the Denver Botanical Gardens, and shortly thereafter, their son, Michael, was born.
I used to help watch the baby. One day I picked him up, and I noticed a little bruise on Dometria’s eye. She told me Michael had done it while she was trying to brush his teeth, and I believed her. He was a rough, chubby little kid. “As long as someone else didn’t do it to you,” I said. She assured me they hadn’t, and I believed her. We were very close.
She knew Pat cheated. People saw him. She’d confront him, and he’d worm his way back in.
She knew Pat cheated. People saw him. His mom owned a bar, and he’d hang out there, helping her, meeting other women, flirting, having fun. She’d confront him, and he’d worm his way back in.
All the while, she was trying to make ends meet. He wanted her to be a stay-at-home mom, and at first it seemed like a fairy tale. He told her, “No wife of mine will work.” Well, he didn’t want to work, either. He was out partying, and she was working for the Denver sheriff’s department and trying to take care of a baby.
I knew he didn’t want to hold down a job. I said to him, look, you have a baby now. He’d tell me he was really trying. My daughter bought him a computer to look for work, and he was online gambling instead. Dometria would go to the store to buy diapers and her account would be overdrawn.
She finally moved in with me and saved up some money to get an apartment of her own in a complex where a lot of our family lived.
But even then, she’d never deny Pat access to Michael. Once Dometria called me in a panic, saying that Pat was talking crazy, saying he was going to kill himself. She was terrified because the baby was home with him. When I arrived, Pat met me at the door, telling me how he couldn’t bear to lose Dometria and how much he loved her, saying that he just wanted to die. I said, “If you’re going to kill yourself, do it on your own time. You’re a dad now so start acting like one. Put this baby first for once.”
On the day Dometria died, I babysat Michael so she could go to work. She came early to eat lunch. She was rumpled—and her clothes were never rumpled. I asked if I could iron for her, but she said no. While she was here, the phone kept ringing. It was him. He called 15 times. Dometria was obviously very upset as she tried to reason with him. Hanging up, she said she wished he would just leave her alone.
I told her that she didn’t need to take his calls, that she should change her number. She told me how she wished she’d never married him, how sorry she was that we spent all this money on her wedding. Then she went off to work. I never saw her alive again.
She called to check in at about 9 o’clock that night and asked if she could go out with her cousins. I told her to go out and have fun, and to just pick up Michael in the morning.
At breakfast, there was no Dometria. I called her and it went right to voicemail. I didn’t think anything of it, actually — I thought she was with her cousins, maybe getting her nails done.
Then the phone rang. It was my brother-in-law, whose daughter lived in the apartment next door to Dometria. He had found her dead.
I was howling: My baby is dead; my baby is dead
It was like I was in a vacuum with the noise sucked out. I could only hear a loud roaring, like I was driving down the highway with the windows open. But the roaring was me. I was howling: My baby is dead; my baby is dead.
She’d been looking at pictures with her cousins after work the night she died. He was lurking outside the apartment complex, peering in the picture window, watching her have a good time and getting madder by the minute.
Her cousins told me the last thing she said to them was, “If you need a place to stay, come next door to my apartment. Don’t drive drunk.” Then she went home and he was there, waiting for her.
They found her partially naked, skull bashed. He’d tried to make it look like a rape. I took a plea bargain so the jury wouldn’t see photos of her like that. My daughter was someone who wouldn’t even wear a low-cut shirt. I couldn’t bear to see 12 strangers looking at her. With the plea, I knew he’d get at least 30 years. And by that time, Michael would be a man. I could protect him and his childhood.
His other grandmother served me with custody papers for Michael the day we buried Dometria. After a nearly two-year battle in which I was awarded custody, I told her, “Look. I need to talk to you. You know what? All of this is water under the bridge. I would never keep Michael from you. We need to do everything we can for this little boy. My daughter is gone. Your son is in jail. Every choice we make needs to be for him,” and so I put out my hand in friendship. And we both bawled.
Michael’s a teenager now. He witnessed violence that I never even knew about. Nobody knew; nobody told me. I’ve put him in everything: gymnastics. baseball for four years, basketball, karate. I keep him active. He’s doing amazingly well, living with this knowledge, with the violence that he’s seen.
He gets morose every once in a while. He hates his father and he loves him and misses him. He wants to honor his mother, and he has guilt. I tell him: “I don’t hate your father. I accepted him as my son when he married your mom. He made a terrible mistake.” I assure him that his feelings are valid and that he needn’t feel guilty for loving his dad, or for sometimes feeling like he hates him. I say, “Baby, there are days that I hate him, too. I hate what he did to my baby girl, but most of all I hate what he took from you.”
Dometria was a tall, beautiful young woman. She purchased her first house before she turned 21. Never wanting to rent, she saved all her money and started filling a hope chest at the age of 14. She could budget money like no one’s business. Even as a child, she could stretch $30.00 that she saved and buy everyone a Christmas present. She loved to eat and could out-eat most men I know. Her favorite ice cream was pistachio almond from Baskin-Robbins. She learned to drive a manual transmission when she was 14 and never wanted to drive an automatic.
She worked hard and was loved by everyone she met. Coworkers, friends, and neighbors said she had a heart of gold. The younger girls in the family wanted to be like Dometria. When we lost her, she left a huge void in our family. Young men and women whose life she touched years ago still pilgrimage to her burial spot on her birthday or on the anniversary of her death. I go to upkeep her grave and I find little notes, flowers, religious statues. She has a Facebook page where old friends from school go as they find out that she is gone.
To families or friends who might suspect abuse: Talk to your children. Don’t be judgmental.
To families or friends who might suspect abuse: Talk to your children. Don’t be judgmental. My daughter didn’t want to look stupid because we’d spent all this money on her wedding. She wanted a family unit. She wanted so badly to preserve that unit. She felt she had to make it work, so she kept forgiving him.
I wanted to trust Pat too, and I wanted to believe Dometria would tell me if something was wrong. Later people told me they’d been to her house, and that the windows were shattered and that there were holes in the walls. Nobody told me, even though we were so close.
Dometria lived life with passion. She was strong, faithful, loving, and independent. But she loved and trusted someone who didn’t deserve it. She paid the ultimate price for her love. I miss my daughter so much. Please, if you know something — say something.
Here are some common red flags for potentially abusive relationships, provided by the Red Flag Campaign. If you suspect that you or a loved one might be in an abusive relationship, Help Guide offers warning signs and common patterns of abuse.
One in every four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and almost one-third of female homicide victims reported in the police records are killed by an intimate partner.
Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
If you or someone you know needs help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).