David Mora Rojas, a father of three, provided Sacramento residents with a grisly example of why those who study strangulation in domestic violence cases describe it as a dress rehearsal for murder.
On Feb. 28, Mora gunned down his three young daughters and their chaperone at a Sacramento church, then killed himself.
But long before that date, Mora revealed the true target of his rage was his former partner, the mother of his three girls. The Bee has not named her because she was a victim of domestic abuse.
In a passage from an April 2021 request for a restraining order, she said: “He threatened to kill me if he ever caught me cheating. He called me a whore and said he wanted to kill me. He has choked me in the past.”
While allegations of choking are often lumped in with those of threats, insults and other physical assault in domestic violence cases, former police officer Joe Bianco said, more than two decades of research have revealed that strangulation “is the calling card of a manipulative, controlling, dangerous man.”
A number of Sacramento County law enforcement agencies and domestic violence advocates have put to work protocols recommended by Bianco and others who work at The Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, and some have documented a steep increase in strangling reports that they link to the improved tools.
Men with a history of strangling women are one of the deadliest threats to U.S. law enforcement officers, killing 75% of those who died in the line of duty in 2017, according to an analysis by the social change organization Alliance For Hope International.
“We’ve correlated stranglers to mass shootings,” said Casey Gwinn, a former prosecutor and president of Alliance For Hope. “We’ve correlated stranglers to familicide, which is what Sacramento is, where he killed his family. We’ve correlated stranglers to cop killers, and we’ve correlated stranglers to men who kill women in America. And the majority of all women in America who are killed have been strangled before they’re killed.”
Along with another former prosecutor, Gael Strack, Gwinn set out on a mission to support children and adults who survive domestic violence following the deaths of two young San Diego mothers. Casondra Stewart and Tamara Smith had been killed by their intimate partners. In prior calls to police, both had reported being “choked.”
Strack led a review of Stewart and Smith’s deaths to find out whether police and prosecutors could have done anything to save their lives. Once she realized both women had been strangled, she culled through thousands of San Diego police reports to see how often other victims of domestic violence had reported it.
Strack’s curiosity and doggedness led to what one leading physician in emergency medicine described as landmark research that ultimately reshaped laws, medical protocols, the direction of scientific research, police procedures and victim advocacy.
CHANGING PRACTICES IN SACRAMENTO
Strack and Gwinn helped to educate change-makers through two organizations they co-founded: the Alliance for Hope and the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention. Launched with the financial backing of the U.S. Department of Justice, the training institute organizes courses for first responders and others working in the field of domestic violence.
Strack’s studies and findings from other researchers dispelled a number of myths and provided new insights into just how dangerous stranglers are. In 2001, for instance, when Strack’s first papers were published in a medical journal, doctors had no idea that the vast majority of strangulation victims survived the ordeal.
Later research would reveal that stranglers are by no means specialists who torment only their partners, Gwinn said. Men who strangle women have an internalized rage, he said, that leads them to also target their children, their family pets and people outside the home.
Gwinn pointed to Mora Rojas who was charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer in Merced County less than a week before he killed his daughters Samia Mora Gutierrez,13, Samantha Mora Gutierrez, 10, and Samarah Mora Gutierrez, 9, and their chaperone Nathaniel Kong.
Strack and Gwinn amassed a trove of research, case studies, best practices and more into an advanced training course that counted Joyce Bilyeu of the Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center among the registrants in 2018.
Source: Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee. Click here to view original post.