A Question of Hope

One family's struggle to escape the devastation of gang culture

On December 14, Michael Rivera was found guilty of the murder of Megan Ramirez.

Adela missed the jury's verdict because of a wrenching holiday ritual she endures every year with Boy.

Christmas revelers caroled through the nursing home, cheering all of the patients save one. Boy bolted alert when Adela shook a set of jingle bells as the merrymakers sang.

"The look of fear in his eyes was something awful," says Adela.

Boy tries to kill himself every year on the December 10 anniversary of the shooting.

"I tried to comfort him," said Adela. "I told him, 'You can cry with your mama, it's okay. But he just kept pushing me away and signaling me to go."

The two struggled as Boy ripped the feeding tube out of his stomach, the third time he's done that in a week. Nurses rushed in and bound him in physical restraints.

"He kept signaling 'No, no,' with his fingers as they tied his arms down," says Adela.

Her spirit broke apart during the confrontation.

"He wants to die."

Adela went home and opened the bottle. That night, her grandson Ricky, performed in the school play, Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Adela missed his performance as Bob Cratchit. She was on the phone, devastated, trying vainly to make some sense of her lot.

News of Rivera's guilty verdict could not distract her from her son's horror.

"Boy has to die before me. There is no one else to take care of him," says Adela. "But he is too young to die."

Sara brought her newborn to Flagstaff for the holidays and Yvonne reunited Ray-Ray with Ricky.

She plans to spend New Year's Eve with her best friend from the Milpas.

Putting miles of asphalt between themselves and Phoenix's gangs might have been the family's most effective strategy for safety.

But for Boy, for Adela, there is no escape.

Contact Michael Lacey at his online address: michael.lacey@newtimes.com

See previous stories in the Hard Core series here

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