Independence police detectives witness a lot of horror. But seeing what three young children went through on Sunday — spending the night in their home with their dead and bloodied mother, their father passed out after allegedly stabbing her — was especially awful.
On Monday night, a commander in the Police Department’s investigations unit took an empty candy jar and dropped in some of his own money to help the children, boys who are 9 and 8 and a girl who is 6. Before the jar left the unit, it contained more than $200.
“We saw this big need for the family and kids,” said Officer Luis Virgil, a former detective who is fluent in Spanish and is helping the family. “It kind of tugged at our hearts because of what they witnessed.”
From there, the donations kept coming. By Wednesday, the outpouring had spread from the police through the Independence community. Best Buy donated three 7-inch Android tablets and their cases for the children; a family donated new mattresses, and the apartment complex where the family lived has moved the children and their maternal grandparents into a new and larger unit.
Gift cards for groceries. Funeral expenses. Food, clothing, toys, movie passes. And the help keeps coming.
On Monday, school officials alerted police when two students told their teachers that their father had brutally stabbed their mother to death. Officers went to the apartment in the 600 block of North Peck Court and found Yadira Gomez dead. Vicente Roldan-Marron, 41, is charged with first-degree murder in the Sunday stabbing death.
“The children were witness to a portion of this,” Virgil said. “You know that these children just witnessed something that no one would be able to deal, with even as adults.”
The 9-year-old son of the couple told police he overheard arguing Sunday after church. When he went upstairs, he saw his mother covered in blood; he thought she was dead, so he went back downstairs and drew pictures of her. Later, the three children went upstairs to check on her. One felt her stomach to see if she was breathing, but she was not.
The children stayed in the home until the next morning, when they woke their passed-out father to ask him to take them to school. There, two of the children told teachers what had happened. That’s how police discovered the body and then arrested their father, according to court documents.
Roldan-Marron told investigators that he could not remember what happened because he had blacked out after drinking alcohol and taking pills.
“This is a tragedy; not only do these kids lose the mother, they are losing their father,” said Officer John Syme, a police spokesman. “It is not something that children should ever experience.”
More money and other items are still being donated to help the grandparents raise the children. The Police Department received numerous phone calls offering help to the children while compiling a list of donated items.
Officers found out where the family shopped for groceries and went there to buy gift cards. Managers at the Sunfresh in the Susquehanna neighborhood were so overwhelmed that they donated a pair of $100 gift cards. Catholic Charities is helping with funeral expenses. Community Services League gave food, toys, clothes.
An officer handed Syme a $200 Wal-Mart gift card for the family; he told Syme it was donated. Syme is pretty sure it was donated by the officer himself.
Organizations such as Corey’s Network have offered their help to the children’s relatives and set up a youcaring.com account to take in donations. The group helps family members of homicide victims with funeral expenses and other support.
“We want to create a community around them,” said Michelle Metje, who launched the network after the 2013 stabbing death of her son, Corey Laykovich.
Independence school officials said counselors were available to speak with students and staff about the incident.
“Our staff has supported students through this difficult time,” Jana Corrie, a spokeswoman for the Independence School District, said in a written statement. “In addition to educating students, we are a safe haven for kids.”
The family is Dominican and had recently moved to Independence from the New York-New Jersey area. Gomez had lived here for several years, but her parents had moved to the area about five months ago and are now caring for the kids, Virgil said.
And the commander’s candy jar? By Wednesday, Police Department employees had chipped in $1,442.
“It has been pretty moving,” Virgil said. “At one point, it brought us all to tears. When we handed the grandparents the money and explained to them who and where everything was from, they cried and were grateful.
“You couldn’t help but get teared up,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
A youcaring.com account has been set up for the family. Click here for more information.