Family honors stabbing victim

Oct. 31, 2012 at 5:31 a.m.
Updated Nov. 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

Michael Martinez, the eldest son of Sandra Rivera, is greeted by a family friend as he attends a benefit to honor his mother and to help defray her funeral expenses.

Michael Martinez, the eldest son of Sandra Rivera, is greeted by a family friend as he attends a benefit to honor his mother and to help defray her funeral expenses.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

Everyone was wearing a purple, white, black and pink ribbon at Longhorn Saloon on Wednesday.

"Purple is for domestic violence; white is for violence against women; black is for mourning; and pink was her favorite color," explained Danna Mahoney, who made the ribbons in memory of her friend, Sandra Rivera.

Rivera, 44, was found dead in her boyfriend's apartment Saturday night. The preliminary investigation indicates that he stabbed her to death before killing himself, said Sgt. Eline Moya, of the Victoria Police Department.

Bennie Ray Dupnik Jr., 51, her boyfriend, was released from prison on parole in 2010 after beating a 72-year-old Port Aransas woman to death with a pool cue in 1978.

Family and friends of Rivera's gathered Wednesday at Longhorn Saloon to remember her and to raise money to help cover funeral costs, totaling $5,400, said Felecia Rivera, her niece.

"I'm pissed off. I'm very angry," Mahoney said at the gathering, battling tears. "It just - it sucks. There are so many people out there that do things to not better the world and someone who did so much to be loving to other people - no one deserves that and she damn sure didn't."

Two of Rivera's sons found the bodies about 6:30 p.m. Saturday when they busted through the door of the apartment.

"I just started screaming and I ran outside screaming and then I ran back inside and it hit me that it was true," Zack Martinez said.

Martinez said he will never forget finding his mom dead, and that he already has flashbacks.

"He (Dupnik) just looked like he was just asleep on the bed, so I guess he just laid down on the bed and waited to die, but it is kind of - she was just thrown on the floor and he just looked so peaceful. I didn't see her face, so it was his face I remember the most. It made me so angry," Martinez said.

Mahoney, who worked at Longhorn Saloon with Rivera, said Dupnik would come into the bar to check up on Rivera. She said he kept quiet about his past.

"He mislead us about a lot of things," Mahoney said. "As a matter of fact, I asked him his name one time and he gave me a completely different last name."

The couple met at Longhorn Saloon, Felecia Rivera said, about two months ago.

Her friend and former roommate, Frances Knode, said Rivera had already broken it off with Dupnik once because he was abusive.

"He would hit her, push her on the ground, throw her around and everything," Knode said.

Knode said Rivera had told her he was monitoring her phone and that she was thinking about leaving again.

Ginny Stafford, chief executive officer of Mid-Coast Family Services, said the violence accelerated rapidly in their relationship.

"This is so untypical for it to explode so quickly. But I can almost promise you that if it hadn't been her, it would have been someone else," Stafford said.

Rivera's family has invited Mid-Coast Family Services to a benefit they are having Nov. 10 to honor Rivera and to raise awareness about domestic violence.

"They just want to use the opportunity to bring to light the tragedy of family violence and the unhappy ending that it had for this individual," Stafford said. "When I think about what the family is going through, for them to be thinking about anybody else right now is pretty selfless."

Stafford said one of the most common reasons domestic abuse situations turn deadly is that the victim attempts to leave.

"What we know is that if a person is in a situation like that, they have got to get help from the outside," Stafford said. "It is just too risky to try to leave without a plan. No one ever expects it to end like this, but you have to plan for the worst situation."

Martinez said the family is battling anger.

His two children, ages 3 and 1, can't grasp what happened to their Nana.

"He still doesn't understand," Martinez said about Zaydin, the oldest. "We came here today and he went inside first to see if she was there ... I try to explain, but it is hard for me without breaking down. He asks kid questions, like 'Why, well why?'"



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