Love Her To Death
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Politics and Activism

Love Her To Death

When romance turns fatal.

505
Love Her To Death
Sandy Zion-Anderson

Over the course of my relatively short (yet undeniably eventful) existence, I have had the opportunity to work with individuals from all walks of life. At one point, I had the distinctly rewarding and often frustrating experience of working with addicts. Addiction is an all-consuming and debilitating sickness, which makes those who successfully overcome it incredibly brave. My husband is one of those success stories, and every day I am proud of him and the profound way he has changed his life. It is this regard that I have for my husband and people like him that made me feel so emotionally connected to the case I bring to you this week.

Melissa Romero of Roswell, New Mexico was--as her parents would say--certainly no angel. There was a time in her life where she had adopted a wild and unpredictable lifestyle--partying with sinister characters, smoking marijuana, and generally living recklessly. She had fallen in love with the wrong man, a shady individual with gang ties named Eric Contreras. Despite his faults, Melissa was devoted to him. When she fell pregnant, she made up her mind to change her ways. She immediately got clean and made the effort to build a family with Eric.

Nine months later, they welcomed their son, Eric Jr. Melissa adored her son and began making plans for the future, in hopes of giving him a better life. Soon, she also welcomed a beautiful daughter, Mariah, and it seemed her little family was now complete. But it was not to be. At just 15 months old, Baby Eric wandered away from the porch where he was playing and drowned in an irrigation ditch. Melissa was utterly devastated. I cannot fathom her loss, nor do I want to. I imagine the turmoil she must have felt to be bottomless. But she showed incredible determination and devotion to her new lifestyle, remaining healthy and focused despite the emotional hardship she faced. Mariah became her reason to live.

Sadly, Melissa would not get a happy ending with her daughter. She was shot to death in her home on the evening of April 15th, 2006. She was only 22-years-old. The Roswell Police Department announced publicly that individuals fired nine shots into the home, striking and killing her while she slept on the couch. They insisted that the incident was not gang related, but was instead the result of a family feud--though I have yet to see any compelling evidence that gives credence to that statement.

If you have even the most basic interest in true crime, you know one particular fact undoubtedly: When a woman is murdered, 9 times out of 10, it's the partner. That is where the police should always look first. It is the most practical approach, to work from the inside-out regarding suspects. That didn't happen in this case, despite the fact that Eric couldn't keep his story straight. Even after he gave conflicting statements, he was not tested for gunshot residue. None of his bloody clothing was collected into evidence. Eric first told officers that at the time of Melissa's death, he and his friends were driving around town listening to a police scanner--a totally fun and normal activity for many people, I'm sure. They heard over the scanner that shots had been fired in the vicinity of Melissa's home, so they rushed to the scene. However, Eric's story changed almost immediately. He then insisted that he had been at a party when a friend called him and told him that he had heard about the gunshots on the scanner. The position and condition of Melissa's body, according to Eric, differed from the information found in the official investigation report. This apparently raised no red flags to any of the officers--even though Eric admitted to repositioning her body himself after the fact. Melissa's brother Thomas, who had spoken to her hours before her death, came forward to tell police that she and Eric had been fighting throughout the day. Melissa even had bruising on her left arm and the left side of her face, but that was deemed inconsequential.

Further adding to my suspicion of Eric's guilt is the fact that he refused to call police. It was a concerned neighbor who informed authorities--and Eric and his cousin Fred refused to let responders in when they arrived. The two men hurled obscenities at the officers and Fred even physically attacked them--but for some reason, none of this behavior was considered suspicious. The men lied about there being guns in the house and were generally uncooperative with police, yet Melissa's death was still determined to be the result of drive-by gun violence.

In the weeks following Melissa's murder, Eric did not exhibit the behavior one would expect from a man grieving the violent death of his girlfriend. In fact, Eric had already started shacking up with a woman called "Gem," whose fiancé was serving time in prison. Around this time, he called Melissa's parents wanting to know if the Office of the Medical Investigator had released her jewelry to them, because he wanted it. Witnesses came forward to inform Melissa's family that Eric had been throwing parties in her house, showing off the bloodstained couch cushions like some kind of macabre parlor entertainment. More people still contacted her parents to tell them that Eric had most certainly killed their daughter, but they were scared to talk to police because of Eric's gang ties. But even without the testimony of these unattributed sources, there were enough inconsistencies in Eric's story and behavior immediately after the murder to warrant a more thorough investigation. So why wasn't one conducted?

Eric has repeatedly refused to take a polygraph examination regarding the circumstances of Melissa's murder. Since her tragic death, Eric lost custody of Mariah and has served time in federal prison for illegal gun possession and various parole violations. While a little girl is growing up without the love and guidance of her devoted mother, her father--a violent criminal and possible murderer--will likely walk free again. It is our job, dear reader, to make sure that doesn't happen. We are the voice of the voiceless. Share Melissa's story.


If you have any comments or questions, or you have information regarding Melissa's case, please contact me at theblackswanbooks@outlook.com.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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