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Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty only against Salinas, who court records show has made similar promises to end his gangbanging. Jumped into the gang at age 13, Salinas committed a series of crimes in a short time, including theft, threatening behavior, domestic violence and assault with a weapon. After the attack on the Adobe Mountain officer, Salinas said he was a "former member" of the East Side gang and planned to change his ways. He said he didn't want to end up like his older brother, who is serving a 15-year prison term for killing a man when he was 16. And he wanted to be a good role model for his younger brothers, he said.
In that recent case, one of those who vouched for Roy was his Uncle Henry.
"Roy has woken up," Henry Salinas wrote in his June 2 letter to the judge. He said that Roy appeared to be sincere when he pledged to change. He asked that Roy be given a chance to get an education. And he said his nephew could be helped by ICAN, the anti-gang group Henry Salinas founded.
"I was wrong," Salinas says now. He is disappointed in Roy's failure to change as promised and his failure to seek ICAN's help.
Roy Salinas was given yet another chance when he was sentenced in that assault case. He could have been ordered to spend more than two years in prison. But after a plea agreement, he was placed on probation and ordered to serve a 60-day jail sentence. He promised to stay away from gangs as part of his probationary terms. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Linda Akers also ordered a four-month deferred term, an incentive to behave after he was released from jail.
But just a month after he was freed from that first jail stint, Roy Salinas was arrested on charges he had killed Russell Hamblin. Now he's back before Judge Akers again in the murder case.
His uncle says the case illustrates one more way gangs affect the community -- the emotional damage to families whose members are involved. Henry Salinas, 47, who is just starting to walk after being partially paralyzed by an illness two years ago, is haunted by the possibility that his nephew may be responsible for the murder of Hamblin.
"I hope and I pray to God that he wasn't involved. But if he was, he knows the consequences because he's no stranger to them," Salinas says. He says offenders like his nephew don't always realize the pain their actions can inflict on innocent family members as well as the victims of their crimes.
"The whole family is suffering . . . and I hurt because he is my nephew. And I love my nephew no matter what. It's not only because he's my nephew. If he was one of the ICAN kids, I'd have to stick by him because I stick by the ones who do very well. And I stand up with pride. And the ones that fall, I have to fall with them and stand there, too."
One photo showed Susan Hamblin and her husband on their wedding day, another their girls Nicole and Kelly, now 3. And the third depicted pallbearers carrying Russell Hamblin's casket. At various times before and during the proceeding, Susan Hamblin put her head down and cried.
Once, when Judge Akers identified Susan Hamblin and spoke directly to her, Salinas stared at the widow, emotionless.
Ismael Cantu, a veteran victim-witness advocate at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, says innocent victims of random gang violence tend to suffer a deeper, different agony than others touched by equally violent crimes.
"There is a lasting fear that what I thought was safe before is not," he says.
Cantu says victims of random gang violence are shaken by the realization that you can still be hurt even though you try to live a good life, make wise choices and stay out of high crime areas. Victims or survivors of other kinds of violence -- fatal drunken driving accidents or domestic violence, for instance -- can more easily come to grips with what happened to them.
"But this random stuff on innocent bystanders, how do you make sense of that?" Cantu asks. "There are so many whys and no answers to those questions."
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Contact Laura Laughlin at her online address: firstname.lastname@example.org