The man accused in the October 24 murder of 21-year-old San Francisco State student Valeria Villagomez made his first court appearance on Tuesday.
20-year-old Jose DeJesus Rodriguez had reportedly been dating Villagomez for a few months and a witness told police that abusive behavior had already begun, with Rodriguez allegedly choking Villagomez, calling her a "whore" and demanding that she delete her Instagram account. As KPIX reports, via prosecutors' court documents, Rodriguez suffers from bipolar disorder and attempted at least once to take his own life using a police officer's weapon shortly after he was taken into custody.
Rodriquez was reportedly found at a home in the Merced Manor neighborhood last Thursday, at the intersection 26th Avenue and Eucalyptus Drive across from Lowell High School, shirtless and with blood on his hands. As the Examiner reports, police then entered the home and Villagomez shot in the head and lying in a pool of blood. Officers then located a revolver and ammunition in the home. The Examiner also has a photo of Rodriguez sitting handcuffed on the steps of the home.
Public defender Brian Pearlman is representing Rodriguez, and he tells KPIX, "Preliminary Information suggests that this was a tragic accident that resulted in the death of someone Jose loves dearly and has been close to since childhood."
In court on Tuesday, newly appointed District Attorney Suzy Loftus sat in the front row, making her first appearance in the role in a high-profile court proceeding. She spoke to reporters outside the court and said, per KPIX, "What we know is that unfortunately, the UN report that the most dangerous place for a woman is in her own home is still true. I think when we see this type of horrific crime, it’s important to remember that if anyone in San Francisco knows someone who they think might be a victim of domestic violence, certainly to report it to the police." Loftus came to the court along with the executive director of the battered women's shelter La Casa De Las Madre, Kathy Black — and she urged anyone who is the victim of domestic abuse to call the shelter's 24-hour crisis line at 877-503-1850.
Black tells the Examiner that her organization responded to 8,914 calls from domestic violence victims during one recent year, and she urged the public not only to focus on homicides like this one, but on all abuse cases.
Villagomez's death marked the 32nd homicide in San Francisco this year, and the second one apparently related to domestic violence. In June, 63-year-old Alice James was allegedly bludgeoned to death with a wine bottle by her 56-year-old boyfriend Casey Murray at her home in Noe Valley.