On May 5, 2005, in Grants Pass, Oregon, a terrorist was killed by his captors, after an 18-year reign of terror.    Aaron Maldonado was a terrorist.  

I have had the privilege of hearing Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune speak; she has often referred to domestic violence as “domestic terrorism.”  It is a very apt term for domestic violence.  Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.”  The definition of domestic violence, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, is “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  DV can be sexual, physical, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.  This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, TERRORIZE, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”

Over the course of an 18-year marriage, Wendy Maldonado endured the entire gamut of horrific abuse.  Aaron Maldonado raped her; he knelt on her head, in front of their children, until she stopped breathing.  He bashed her head through the walls so often that she covered the holes with pictures her children drew (when he wasn't home, so she wouldn't be beaten).  He knocked out her teeth.  He beat her unconscious while she was driving, and made it very clear he would kill her family members one by one if she ever left him, or tried to get police help. He abused her daily.  He inflicted torture and abuse on their four sons and family pets.  His youngest son reportedly told his preschool teacher that when he grew up he was going to kill his daddy.

On the last night of his life, Aaron’s behavior was so frightening that Randy, his 16-year-old son (the oldest) risked his life and called 9-1-1.  Police were met in the yard by Wendy and Randy, who said everything was okay.  They failed to notice Randy trying to silently indicate to them that his father was watching on a surveillance camera, so they left.  Neighbors stopped the police and begged them to go back, but the police declined.

When this last-ditch effort to get help had failed, Wendy faced the wrath of her husband.  In desperation, Wendy and Randy did what they felt they needed to do to save the lives of themselves, Wendy’s other three younger sons, and their extended family: they killed him.

Wendy called 9-1-1 immediately to report the killing, and was immediately arrested.  Twelve days later, three days after his 17th birthday, Randy was arrested.  Other than during a ten-month period when Wendy was out on bond, she has been separated from her sons. 

Randy was released from jail on August 8, 2011.  While his brothers, Joshua, Marshall, and Tyler, have been allowed to visit their mother in jail, Randy has not been allowed to see his mother in person for more than six years, because they are co-defendants.  They have only been allowed phone conversations since his release; her release date is March 7, 2016.

On April 27, 2010, Amazon.com released a movie, from award-winning filmmaker Tommy Davis, entitled “One Minute To Nine,” a moving and shocking documentary that uses extensive home footage to chronicle Wendy's story.  It was later picked up by HBO and retitled, “Every F---ing Day of My Life.”

Many people, including me, do not believe that society is any better off, or any good has been served, from incarcerating either Wendy or her son; it has resulted in further traumatization of their entire family.  Her sons have not had the opportunity for a decent life with a loving mother who was trying to protect them.  There seems to be little doubt that killing her husband saved their lives.  Even the judge who sentenced Wendy described their family life as the worst domestic violence case he had ever seen, and expressed sadness over required sentencing guidelines.

In a society that loves to blame victims of domestic and sexual violence, I guess it should come as no surprise that this mother and son were not supported by the justice system, in spite of a grassroots swell of support from people who knew the family.  While any loss of life is tragic, there is a solid case here of a mother trying to save her children’s lives.  If a stranger had threatened her children, she would have been applauded for killing him, but since it’s their dad… she is in prison.

Two of her four sons are now grown and married, having grown up in hell, then losing both parents… one to death and one to the justice system.  This is one of those cases where the law did not uphold justice.  This family has been through far more suffering and pain than most of us can fathom, and yet it continues, because of the justice system’s warped perception that somehow society is safer with Wendy behind bars. 

Right now, there is a major effort underway to free Wendy and her family from the justice system, reunite them, and let them start to heal from a lifetime of trauma.  The person who can make that decision is Dr. John Kitzhaber, Governor of Oregon.  In a few weeks, he will determine whether to grant clemency to Wendy Maldonado, freeing her from jail, or leaving her there for three more pointless years.
YOU CAN HELP.  You can email Dr. Kitzhaber by going to http://governor.oregon.gov, click on “contacts,” then “request assistance or leave a comment.”  You can also call the Governor’s Citizen Main Line at (503) 378-4582.  Either method is equally effective.

To learn more about this case, visit http://www.freewendyandherfamily.com, or learn more about the film at http://www.oneminutetonine.com/faq.  There is more information on both of these sites about ways you can support Wendy and her family, regardless of the outcome of the clemency request, including financial support for legal expenses and the Educational Trust Fund for the Maldonado sons.

Let’s free Wendy and her family.  Justice needs to be served.

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice."   Martin Luther King, Jr.