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Restraining Order Fails to Stop Killer

January 26, 2000|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — A woman fatally shot by her estranged husband Monday had filed an application two weeks earlier seeking to keep him away, claiming he was violent and had threatened to kill her.

Days after being served with that temporary restraining order, Jose Valeriano followed his wife of 11 years as she dropped off their youngest son at school, then stepped behind her as she walked home and fired two bullets into her head, authorities said.

"I love you, baby," witnesses heard him call out while lying next to her body and firing two fatal shots into his own chest.

Caught in a mix of grief and outrage, members of Hilda Valeriano's family wondered aloud Tuesday why law enforcement was helpless to protect a 34-year-old woman struggling to inch her way toward safety.

"I can see why people get frustrated that the law is not on our side," said the victim's sister, Alma Mercedes Ruiz. "She was trying to do the right things. And we told the cops before [that] he had a gun, that he was threatening to kill her. Why not go, 'OK, let's go check the house; we have a reason to'? I know they are here to help us, but what good does it do? The person is dead now."

Ruiz said her older sister had been struggling to get out of a marriage marked by physical abuse for both herself and her children. And it seemed last year that she was making progress. She had left her husband, after he came home drunk one night and began punching her once she refused to give him the keys to the family's truck.

She filed for divorce in 1996, but the case was still pending, according to court records.

But she got closer to independence--dating again, making plans to get her high school equivalency diploma--Jose Valeriano, 38, became increasingly obsessive and violent, Ruiz said. He even showed up at his wife's apartment earlier this month to beat her up, Ruiz said. He was arrested in that incident, but was released a short time later with no charges having been filed.

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