Angelica Aquirre is overwhelmed with emotion inside her tiny mobile home… (Phil Willon / Los Angeles…)
HESPERIA — Worried that her daughter may be on drugs, or worse, Angelica Aquirre did what any parent of a rebellious 13-year-old might do. She cracked down, set a curfew and thought about moving closer to her family in Mexico.
Now a distraught Aquirre is left wondering whether she was too harsh. Her daughter on Wednesday was in a juvenile detention facility in Apple Valley, accused of hatching a murder plot with two of her middle school friends.
The target: her mother.
"I don't know what to say. I just can't believe it," Aquirre said, weeping as she sat at a kitchen table in the family's tiny mobile home, a framed picture of Jesus on the wall.
Aquirre said she was in bed asleep early Tuesday morning when two attackers, strangers, broke into the trailer and began pummeling her.
"I thought they were robbing me," she said in Spanish. "Then I saw my daughter was missing."
Aquirre called police to report her daughter missing, but omitted the attack, according to police. By late Tuesday, detectives with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department reached a disturbing conclusion: They believed her daughter had plotted the attack with two friends at Ranchero Middle School, a 14-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl.
"She just said that her daughter was gone, that she'd run away with two other kids," sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Rose said.
About 6:30 a.m., after her daughter had been found, the mother realized the gravity of what had happened and reported that "kids tried to kill her," Rose said.
"There were three different means of attack," she said, declining to elaborate because the incident remains under investigation. "We don't really know the motive. We just believe it was more in line with the curfew and friends."
Because all three suspects are juveniles, their names have not been released by sheriff's officials. The Times is keeping the name of the daughter confidential.
Aquirre said her troubled relationship with her daughter soured further just over a month ago. Afraid her daughter was using drugs, she called the police. Her daughter, who denied it, ran away but returned a short time later.
Then, over the last few weeks, Aquirre noticed her daughter wasn't eating and appeared ill in the mornings. Aquirre worried that she might be pregnant. The girl denied it. That's when Aquirre, whose husband works as a long-haul trucker and is rarely home, imposed a curfew and she told her daughter the family may be moving back to Mexico.
"I don't want to be here anymore," Aquirre said.
Those mother-daughter travails were laid bare in a hand-drawn Mother's Day card from just nine days before the attack. Decorated with simple hearts and crude stick figures, the card was filled with pleas in Spanish for forgiveness and understanding.
"Mom, I know that we don't get along well and I shout at you. Please forgive me for what I did to you, that I yell and tell you that I don't love you, but yes I love you," the daughter said in the card. "I hope you can forgive me. I promise that I will behave well. Happy Mother's Day."
Talk of the alleged murder plot swept through Hesperia, a high desert community of 90,000 north of the San Bernardino Mountains, and filled the halls at Ranchero Middle School on Wednesday, the last school day of the year. Television news trucks greeted students and their parents as they drove through a choking desert dust storm to the campus.
Mark McKinney, superintendent of the Hesperia Unified School District, said the arrests were shocking and "sad news to hear."
"It's a tragedy, and we really feel for those involved," McKinney said Wednesday morning outside campus. "It's the last day of school and we're just trying to keep everything as normal as possible."
McKinney said sheriff's investigators came to Ranchero Middle School on Tuesday and removed a 14-year-old student during an end-of-the-year awards ceremony. He couldn't confirm that the two other suspects attended Ranchero, but several students said Aquirre's daughter was a student there.
Jashon Lee, 14, a former student, said the victim's daughter was known as a happy, nice person — never in trouble as far as he knew.
"From what I knew about her in the seventh grade, I was really surprised to hear" about the arrest, said Lee, who was on campus Wednesday with his mother to return books. "It's totally unlike her."
Another student, an eighth-grader hanging out in front of campus with two friends, said she was friends with the daughter, and they often would spend time at a local mall. On Monday, the daughter told her that she might be moving to Mexico, but little else.
"She didn't tell me anything," the friend said. "It's just crazy."
Parents dropping off their kids said they were shocked to hear news reports about the alleged plot, some sympathizing with the difficulties Aquirre faced raising a teenager.