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Two families’ lives shattered in one violent moment

By Staff | Feb 4, 2008

In one violent moment last July in Winnebago, two families’ lives were changed forever.

That became very evident last Wednesday morning in Faribault County District Court. The families of Miguel Lopez and Marcos Gonzalez faced each other and heard each other speak about how their lives have been shattered, and how they will never be the same again.

Marcos Gonzalez had been convicted of first degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of Miguel Lopez. Now he will be sentenced, and at the pre-sentencing hearing members of both families of the two men were allowed to speak to the judge and tell him anything that they wanted to about the men, the incident, or their family.

It was obvious that both families have suffered a lot of anguish. Both men were married, and both have small children. The children are missing their fathers; one who will never come home again, and one who will not come home for a long time.

It is almost a mirror image of two shattered families, perhaps made even more evident as the two who spoke to the judge from both families were the father of the man, and the wife of the man.

Lopez's father and wife had many good things to say about him, and how they and their family will miss him and never get over the fact that he is gone, and wonder why he was killed. They demanded justice, and wanted his killer punished, and sent to prison for as long as the law allowed.

Gonzalez's family also spoke about the fact that he is a good man, a good father and husband, and has never been violent like this before. His family and children also miss him, as he is in prison, and they felt that he did not deserve a long prison term, because there was blame for the incident on several people, including the victim.

At the trial, the defense had tried to prove that it was self-defense, and that others had actually started the fight that led to the killing. We don't know what happened that day, and may never know, but the fact remains that there was a fight, and a man was killed with a knife. There are several reasons why it happened, but it did happen.

And when it did, as one of the wives involved said, their lives were changed forever. A lot of lives were changed forever, and one was ended. It was easy to see, and feel, the pain of the families, the anguish they have faced for the past seven months, and will face for years to come.

There was a lot of emotion in the courtroom last Wednesday. The families told their stories, and had to do it through an interpreter. That almost made it more dramatic, as the person had to pause in what they were saying in Spanish as the interpreter repeated it in English. Plus there was the fact that the speaker faced members of the other family as they spoke, and also Marcos Gonzalez in the defendant's chair.

Everyone spoke about justice. Several spoke about having faith in the Minnesota justice system in particular. Personally, I am not sure what justice is in this case. Perhaps it is exactly what County Prosecutor Brian Roverud had agreed to, a prison term of 86 months, with about two thirds of that actually served. There probably is nothing to be served to send a man away for 15 or 25 years or more for this type of incident.

Whatever the state doles out as punishment, or does not, it probably won't be anything compared to the heartbreak and pain that everyone involved is suffering – and is going to suffer – no matter what else is done.

We hope there is a lesson there for other young men. Sometimes it is better to walk away than to prove your bravado.

Our heart goes out to both families…