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COURT

From: gleier
Date: 05 Oct 2003
Time: 21:16:04
Remote Name: 63.93.98.74

Comments

I was there in the courtroom when this happened. My daughter and I were appalled that the judge would do this or say the things that he did. I stopped this lady in the hall and we talked and exchanged numbers because I felt she had been so unfairly treated. In fact - - I posted a statement about this case (somewhere on this site on Sept 2) when I got home that day but I am not sure on which board. where the judge ordered that the child be put into school in a district in which neither parent lived. this judge never even asked what the restraining order was for. Or to find out that she had run off to Morgan Hill to her father's house (30 minutes away from Hollister) because she feared for her life.

Judge ordered murdered mom back Weeks after fleeing to father’s South Bay home, husband kills wife, self at her new apartment in Hollister

By DEAN PATON Pinnacle Staff Writer Three weeks before her brutal murder, Judge Harry Tobias ordered 37-year-old Stephanie Rodriguez to re-enroll her son in a Hollister school, effectively forcing her to move from her father’s Mountain View home back near an estranged husband who she alleged had a history of abuse. After the murder Saturday, someone removed from the couple’s court file the judge’s notes outlining how he fast-tracked the couple’s custody case. Clad in body armor, Rodriguez’s husband barged into her apartment Saturday night with two handguns and shot his wife of 16 years in the head, police say. Leo Rodriguez, 40, then killed himself. “He snapped,” said Monique Rodriguez, Leo’s sister. “We mourn for her, too. She was in our lives for 16 years. We’re going to pull together, her family and our family, to bring their child love.” Now a small shrine of yellow roses, lit candles, and a framed photo of her smiling with her boy sit by her front door – and Rodriguez’s attorney says the court is partly to blame for her death. “The justice system certainly did not serve her well,” said Dolly Ares, Rodriguez’s attorney. “There had been a lot of domestic violence in the marriage, lots. Apparently everybody got on his bandwagon and believed him.” The judge declined to comment for this article through court administrator Alex Calvo. Tobias’ personal notes were returned to the court file Tuesday when a reporter told Calvo they were missing. The notes outlined, in part, how Tobias intended to dismiss a restraining order against Leo Rodriguez that had been filed with Santa Clara County courts. “Judge Tobias keeps his notes in the file, they weren’t there, they should have been,” said Calvo. “There was some confusion about whether or not his notes should remain in the file.” If the facts in the court file are accurate – and not everyone agrees that they are – the Rodriguez marriage was a rocky one plagued with violence, something Monique Rodriguez denies. “The crime is not sharing the child,” she said. “The other allegations were never proven. I want to make it clear, though, that I’m not justifying what he did one bit.” After years of alleged abuse, according to neighbors, Ares and court documents, Rodriguez fled their Hollister home with her 10-year-old boy in early August to live with her father. She filed a restraining order in Santa Clara County against her husband, though he was never served. The restraining order came when she discovered a cache of dope needles, according to the restraining order; Leo Rodriguez was allegedly addicted to and injecting methamphetamines. Toxicology results on his body have not yet been processed by police. He also allegedly raided their joint bank account. She smashed the needles and he threw her jewelry in the trash in retaliation, according to the restraining order. “He’s going through mood swings and at any moment he can get angry and go into a rage,” she wrote in the request for the restraining order. “I fear for my safety.” During their marriage, her husband had thrown her into a table, choked her and punched her in the stomach, she said in the restraining order. He was arrested in 1995 on domestic violence charges, but never completed his domestic violence classes, according to Ares. What happened next was completely bizarre in Ares’ view. According to Ares, Rodriguez received a phone call on the morning of Sept. 2 from a worker for San Benito County family court services, who said that she was to enter mediation with her husband that same day. When she asked why, she was told it was “an emergency.” The emergency was that her husband had asked the court for temporary custody of their child the week before, Ares said. Rodriguez protested that she did not yet have an attorney, but feared losing custody of her son if she did not show up. Once there, she was told that Tobias had scheduled a hearing on the motion that same afternoon, according to Ares, who had not yet been retained. Again she protested to court staff because she did not have an attorney present. The case was supposed to be heard on Sept. 16. Tobias wanted the case heard that day; he called the Santa Clara County judge who had granted the original restraining order against her husband, Ares said. The two agreed that Tobias would dismiss the restraining order. The court reporter’s transcript of the proceeding with Tobias and the couple also was not included in the court file until Tuesday evening. “Mom, you have this domestic violence case,” Judge Tobias said to Stephanie Rodriguez. “Let’s go off the record for a minute.” Going off the record means that whatever Tobias said to her after that is not part of the court record. After the court went back on the record, Tobias ordered Rodriguez to turn over the boy to her husband and have him re-enrolled in a local elementary school within two days, according to court documents. The idea was that the parents would alternate custody from week to week. “He gets custody until she comes back, so naturally she came back,” said Ares of her client’s return to Hollister. Tobias ordered Leo Rodriguez to stay 50 yards away from his wife unless it concerned their child, an order he apparently violated. Stephanie Rodriguez never asked during the proceeding to stop it for lack of an attorney, according to transcripts, but Tobias suggested she retain one to settle the estranged couple’s property dispute. “I suggest you talk with a lawyer so you know what your options are,” he said. “That’s why you hire lawyers.” After the rushed court hearings, Stephanie Rodriguez hired Ares to represent her. She and Ares appeared at court on Sept. 16, but Tobias took it off the calendar, Ares said. The husband didn’t show up. During the court battle with her husband, Stephanie Rodriguez requested the court perform an independent investigation and test both parents for drugs. “Nobody paid any attention to the serious allegations made by him or her,” Ares said. Among the allegations Leo Rodriguez made in court documents against his wife was that she prevented him from having a job. “I have lost several jobs due to her,” he wrote. “My last employer said to control my wife and I would have a job.” He also disputed his wife’s account of his drug habit and said there was no need for an independent investigation. He mentioned several times that he was a den leader for his son’s local Boy Scouts chapter. Members of Leo Rodriguez’ family caution that the court file does not contain an accurate picture of the facts. If what happened last Saturday evening is true, then it was completely out of character for Leo Rodriguez, they say. The Leo Rodriguez they knew, “was a good and loving father of four children, a caring son, and a wonderful brother and the pain will be deeply felt of his loss,” said Monique Rodriguez, a family member, in a written statement. “Divorce is a messy situation and untrue things are often said about people. The court felt that it was best that the parents have joint custody. Do not take two people sharing a child to be a crime.” Now She’s Dead Shavon Parra, who lives next door, said Leo Rodriguez first tried stopped by the apartment earlier Saturday evening trying to get his wife to leave with him in the car by saying that their child was in the hospital. He wanted to take her there. Parra’s family advised Stephanie Rodriguez not to go with him to the hospital or anywhere else. Later another neighbor heard screaming and a man pounding violently on Stephanie’s door. The neighbor, who was afraid to be identified, went outside and confronted Leo Rodriguez. The neighbor threatened to call the police. “He looked at me with such a glare in his eyes and he said, ‘Go ahead,” the neighbor said. Just a few minutes earlier the neighbor had noticed Leo Rodriguez pacing the parking lot of the apartment complex. When he started kicking in his wife’s door, the neighbor frantically called 911; in the background Stephanie Rodriguez was screaming for her life. The neighbor didn’t hear the shots, but noticed the screaming had stopped. Hollister police responded to the scene at 1051 Sunnyslope Road around 11 p.m. They found a chair inside the apartment propped up against the broken door, as if she was trying to barricade it to keep him out, and smelled fresh gunpowder with wafts of smoke still lingering. One police source said the apartment was covered with blood. The estranged husband and wife were lying dead in the living room with bullet wounds to the head fired from point-blank range. Police found two pistols, one a .45-caliber handgun and the other a .40-caliber handgun, near the man’s lifeless body. According to Capt. Bob Brooks, no one may ever know the exact motive. “If, in fact, he is the murderer, then the police department isn’t going to do a lot of investigating into his life or her life, because the murder is solved,” Brooks said. “Obviously, people like answers, but our position is to solve the case. It’s not like we need to go to court or anything.” She Was Trying A wall near the apartment complex is tagged with gang graffiti in enormous red letters and Sunnyslope School is across the street. Nevertheless, Rodriguez was eager to start over, though she did complain about Tobias to neighbors. Neighbors said Rodriguez moved into her small apartment three weeks ago. She commuted to her job at Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Jose. The first weekend her sisters came down to help paint and redo the boy’s room. They could have never imagined the short time he would use it. Now neighbors feel traumatized by the incident. One left home for a few days, the others are having trouble sleeping. “I still can’t believe what happened,” said neighbor Parra. “She seemed like a really nice person.”

Friends are sad that the couple’s son, who attended R.O. Hardin School, will grow up not knowing how much both of his parents cared for him. They ask that anyone with positive memories please write them down and send them to: Memories for Lance care of Friends of Lance, 1872 Shore Rd., Hollister, 95023.

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