On November 20, 2013, Ron started his day early. It was a Wednesday, and he met one of his cousins at her work at 7 am — that was when her workday finished. Together, they went to Walmart. Since Ron had lost his job and home, this kind woman had bought him a $40 phone card once a month, for a couple months now. Then they went to her place in Escondido and she cooked up a nice breakfast. Ron enjoyed some pleasant time with her.
Then Ron went to the Human Resources building in Escondido. “I was establishing contact and making an appointment for counseling.” He was there about an hour, filling out paperwork. He was seeking help because he had been feeling so down lately. Monette, another one of his cousins, had recommended that place. “She encouraged me to go.” Monette knew that Ron had lost custody of his grandson, and could not find work, and then lost the trailer he lived in. Ron was currently living out of his car.
“Monette... she was my confidante,” he said later. “I was able to get some solid advice from her, she was one of the only people I could be totally honest with, talk to.”
Ron and Monette grew up in Escondido. They were close as kids, and they stayed in touch. “She was a cousin of mine, a very close cousin.” Monette knew about his troubles. Back in 1979, when Ron was 17 years old, there was a girl the same age. He was accused of rape; he denied it. Ron went on trial in 1981. He was convicted and sent to prison for four years. He is now a registered sex offender for life in California. Ron does admit his conviction, but he still insists, “I did not commit the crime.”
Late that morning, Ron went to the home of his cousin Monette. Before he came over, “I would always call.” Monette was 54 then, three years older than Ron. For the last couple months, since Ron had returned to Escondido, Monette had let him use her shower two or three times a week. “We were on good terms, yes.” Ron made an effort not to overwhelm any one friend with all his needs.
Ron had met Monette’s husband. “I think I only met him twice.” He liked Walter fine. “We got along great.” Ron usually visited his cousin Monette during the day while her husband was at work.
Monette’s home was in Escondido near the intersection of the 15 and 78 freeways. That morning, Ron parked his car near the cyclone fencing around her yard. Ron liked his old Mercedes Benz, an early 80s model. It was the only nice thing he owned.
Ron knocked on the door and Monette yelled at him to come in but the metal screen door was locked. Monette often kept her front door open and the screen door closed because she liked to smoke in the front room. Monette got up out of her favorite chair and opened the screen door. She was on the phone. “I believe she was talking to Erica,” Ron remembered. “That’s her youngest girlfriend.” Erica is married to Monette’s oldest son.
Ron came into the living room; it was just he and Monette there. Monette was fond of her new daughter-in-law; she hoped Erica would be a good influence on her son. “She was in a deep conversation with Erica, how she should act and be with her son, cause he was out here making trouble, and you have to take hold of those reins and pull him in.” Ron later remembered more of what he overheard: “Put a little bit more, you know, clamp down on him; you know, don’t let him run wild.”
Monette plopped back into her big, cushioned, high-backed chair. She almost lived in that comfy chair. Her computer and phone and drink were kept conveniently near, on the coffee table.
Ron went to take his shower. There was only one bathroom in the two-bedroom apartment, so he yelled to the woman in the guest room, asking if she needed to use the restroom before he started his shower. She said no, and he took his shower. Then Ron changed into fresh clothes he had brought.
After she got off the phone, Monette and Ron gossiped about her awful sister, the one who had taken all the inheritance. “There was bad feelings between the sisters,” Ron remembered. Monette’s mother and father had passed away a year ago, just months apart. That was hard enough, and then one sister took the entire estate for herself, instead of dispersing it among the five siblings, according to Monette.
While they talked, Monette occasionally got out of her chair to tend her chihuahaus. She had three of them in the kitchen; they were contained by a child’s gate.
Ron said that Monette was her usual self, but then at a certain moment, she changed. “Yeah, when she came through the door, Asiatae. Then [Monette] kinda froze up, a whole different side of herself.”
Asiatae was the adult daughter of Monette’s husband Walter. She was 35 years old then, in 2013. Asiatae had been living in Las Vegas, where her mother lived, but about a month earlier she had returned to Escondido. Asiatae was born in Escondido, but left when she was very young, when her parents divorced.
Ron had seen Asiatae previously, “I believe about three times.... Me and Monette were smoking, she walked past and said, ‘It is stuffy in here,’ and pulled the door open wider.” Ron noticed she was wearing a long coat and remarked that it was “kinda warm” for that. Asiatae did not answer and went out the front door. It was cloudy and gray all that day in San Diego County, muggy and uncomfortable.
Ron said Monette made it clear to him that she did not like Asiatae staying at her house. And she was going to ask her husband to tell Asiatae to leave. Why? “She was getting bad feelings,” Ron said. “She told me a couple times, after naps, she woke up and [Asiatae] was just staring at her.” Monette had a habit of napping in her big chair.