Faces of Milpas

"There are things I could tell you that I have seen," Myra says cryptically.

She believes the police continually blow minor events -- like Noe's arrest for traffic warrants -- out of proportion.

"I think they make things big out of something little," she says. "But when something big is happening, they don't make the effort to do what they got to do."

Joe Romero and Myra Rosales with their children (from left) Vanessa Rosales, Joeanna Romero, Evonna Rosales and Benjamin Romero.
Paolo Vescia
Joe Romero and Myra Rosales with their children (from left) Vanessa Rosales, Joeanna Romero, Evonna Rosales and Benjamin Romero.

She says a major concern is the steady influx of Sinaloans who party, fire guns into the air and deal drugs.

"When they are shooting, shooting someone, where are the cops?" she asks. "We hear gunshots sometimes at night from the Mexican people. Get them people. They are the ones that can kill somebody and take off to Mexico and nobody is going to know nothing."

Lito Life

By John Dougherty

On May 27, 1998, Myra Rosales was driving to Phoenix from Las Cruces, New Mexico, after retrieving her oldest son, 9-year-old Danny Christopher, from his father's house.

Danny was born when Myra was 14, and she raised the boy for seven years. When Danny asked to spend more time with his father, Myra sent him to Las Cruces.

She was bringing Danny to Phoenix for a visit when disaster struck.

"I don't know how I lost control of the wheel," she says.

The car flipped over and rolled three times, throwing two girlfriends sleeping in the back seat through the rear window. One of the women was severely injured, but has since recovered. The other woman, 21-year-old Toni Marie Lucero, wasn't so lucky.

"She died instantly," says Myra, who suffered deep bruises from her seat belt.

Myra's son, Danny, suffered serious injuries even though he was wearing a front seat belt. Everyone was airlifted to a Tucson hospital.

Both Myra and Lucero were pregnant, Myra with Joeanna.

Lucero was carrying the child of 19-year-old Margarito "Lito" Rodarte.

Friends say Rodarte and Lucero loved each other deeply.

Their relationship had inspired Rodarte to focus on his future rather than hang out with his LCM homeboys. Rodarte was on the verge of graduating from North High School -- a rarity for Milpas residents.

"I know he really did love her," Myra says.

Lucero's death plunged Rodarte into a deep depression.

"When I was in the hospital, he wouldn't even talk to me," says Myra.

He was oblivious even to his sisters, who had raised him.

"He blanked everyone out of his life for three to five weeks. He would not even talk to me, and we were very close," his 24-year-old sister, Lisa Anna Medrano, wrote in an October 18 letter to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank T. Galati.

Rodarte failed the only high school class he was taking that spring, and by late summer 1998, he had thrown himself back into the heart of Eastside LCM, which was kicking up trouble under the influence of Felix "Gato" Medina. Fresh from a four-year prison stint, Medina, 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, was an imposing physical force. Rodarte added to the power of the gang with his sheer bulk -- 5-foot-9, 275 pounds.

Medina and key homeboys like Rodarte ruled the neighborhood, beating those who got in their way. Before long, armed robberies, beatings and heavy drug use were the norm at the LCM clubhouse on South 13th Place ("Marked Man," October 14).

The flare-up in violence and drug use by LCM attracted attention of the Phoenix gang squad, which launched an intense investigation that employed tough racketeering laws that assure stiff prison sentences without parole.

Family members say Rodarte quickly fell under Medina's command.

"Lito is very trusting, and he thought Medina was his friend," Rodarte's mother, Dora Rodarte, wrote Judge Galati on October 20.

"Margarito has been getting into trouble since Felix Medina got out of prison," Dora Rodarte's letter stated. "Margarito and all the boys from the naborhood were scard of Felix Medina. He would victimized all our naborhood young men and teenagers into doing what he would tell them to do. All the boys from the naborhood were stealing for his coke habit! If they didn't do what he said, he would shame them and call them wimps and would beat them up."

Medina's physical presence wasn't the only thing influencing Rodarte.

"He felt that Felix Medina gave him unconditional acceptance and I guess he felt he belong to something," Dora Rodarte wrote.

Rodarte had never belonged to anything. His mother spent 10 years in prison on heroin-related convictions. By the time she was freed, Rodarte was entering his teenage years. His father reared him for three years while his mother was in prison. His father, however, was blind, and his father's new wife, didn't get along with Rodarte.

Rodarte was shuffled between family members for most of his childhood, with his sisters bearing primary responsibility. He began drinking beer, using marijuana and cocaine when he was 16.

Despite the difficult upbringing, he did fairly well in school and was involved in sports. His English teacher at North High School was impressed with Rodarte, particularly with his description of a fantasy childhood he never had.

"The first assignment, a poem about childhood, not only revealed a very beautiful, almost Palmer Style handwriting, but more importantly, images of tenderness, goodness and a youth full of family love," Christine Reed stated in a October 14 letter to Judge Galati.

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