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Oxnard School Trustee Charged With Spousal Battery

Violence: Case against Ray Gonzales is based on incidents in February and March. His wife recanted account of injury, but prosecutors decide to press on.

July 15, 1999|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Oxnard School District trustee has been charged with spousal battery following an incident in February where his wife was cut with glass and a March altercation where police were called to the couple's Oxnard home.

Trustee Ray Gonzales, 41, a former Oxnard planning commissioner and now director of the county-run La Colonia CalWORKS center, faces trial in August on a single misdemeanor battery charge.

Prosecutors said the charge is based on a puncture wound Nicole Gonzales, 29, a homemaker, suffered on her right forearm Feb. 7 that required treatment in a hospital emergency room. Police were not called at the time.

Gonzales was arrested March 8 after police responded to the second incident, court records show. His wife told them he had pushed her into a broken window a month earlier, cutting her arm.

Gonzales denied Wednesday that he had ever harmed his wife during their 10-year marriage. She said in an interview that she had lied to police originally, and that she had cut her arm after tripping over children's toys, falling onto a couch and flailing her arm into a shard of glass in a broken window.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Wendy Macfarlane said that she is pressing the case because the evidence against Gonzales remains strong. She said women abused in domestic violence cases recant their original statements in about 95% of cases because of fear of retaliation, income loss or not wanting to hurt their spouses.

"Although Mr. Gonzales does believe he should not be prosecuted for this, I can tell you that we don't need to go after people. We don't have to go looking for work," Macfarlane said. "I'm not out to make his life miserable. But three kids are involved. It's not just a matter of him and his wife."

Macfarlane said she has no reason to believe that Nicole Gonzales will be a hostile witness at trial. Gonzales has not changed her story, Macfarlane said. "I would have to tell you, no, all the information has been consistent. It's pretty much as detailed in the police report."

Nicole Gonzales said, however, that she assumed the case would be dropped when she changed her story. She said she would never testify for the prosecution because her husband did nothing wrong.

The Gonzaleses said they are now seeing counselors and getting along fine, except for the stress of the criminal case.

After Gonzales' arrest, several prominent Oxnard officials filed letters vouching for his integrity, including Mayor Manuel Lopez.

Lopez knows Gonzales because the former insurance salesman is credited with saving the life of the mayor's wife in 1993, when unemployed computer engineer Alan Winterbourne opened fire in an Oxnard unemployment office where Irma Lopez worked.

Watching the mayhem from his pickup nearby, Gonzales raced to the injured Lopez to drag her to safety. Winterbourne killed four before being fatally shot by police.

Ray Gonzales subsequently served as a city planning commissioner in 1997 and 1998, before his election to the board of trustees of the Oxnard elementary district.

He said Wednesday that he and his wife had some problems in their marriage but that he had never physically harmed her. He said he called police to their home in March because they got into an angry argument.

"We've been struggling through some domestic issues," he said, "but I did not commit battery on my wife."

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