CITY TIMES EXCLUSIVE: Diana Gonzalez’s father recounts day of her death

Jose Gonzalez quietly connected a VCR and stereo system to a heavy, old 20-inch TV that he had set on a raised outdoor patio bar Oct. 22. The bar sat in the the paved backyard of his brother and sister-in-law’s small house in National City.

Several women, likely family and friends of the Gonzalez family, were laying out evenly spaced rows of green and white plastic outdoor chairs.

The chairs were set up to face a plastic table, where five tall votive candles and a picture of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus stood. The familiar photo we have seen in the media of the young, beautiful City College student Diana Gonzalez smiling toward the camera was the centerpiece of the table.

This very backyard likely served as the perfect location for large family celebrations in the past, though this evening Jose Gonzalez wasn’t setting up for a party. He was holding the rosary service–a Mexican tradition to pray for the repose the deceased–for his tragically murdered daughter. Diana Gonzalez was presumably murdered by her estranged ex-husband in a men’s bathroom on the City College campus. The mood was somber and quiet, except for several young children running around playing hide and seek.

Jose is a young-looking man of medium height with a fit build. Wearing jeans, a tucked-in button-down shirt and a baseball hat, Jose sat in a recliner chair in Diana’s aunt and uncle’s living room and spoke.

For the first time, Jose spoke about the events his family went through that lead up to his daughter’s murder.

How did you feel when you heard that Armando had been let out of jail when charges were not filed after his arrest for Diana’s kidnapping, rape and assault?

I told the detectives that as soon as I had heard that he had been let out that I knew that something like this was going to happen. I told that to the first detective who had interviewed her at the school as well.

I thought that after (Armando) attacked (Diana) that he would have at least gotten one to three years. When I saw that he had only gotten four days and when the detectives told me that they didn’t have any proof, I said, “What do you want your evidence to be? For her to be dead?” Now that she’s dead, now (they’re) pressing charges. Finally now he’s guilty of something to (police).”

How was Diana affected by news of Armando’s release? How did your family react?

I told my daughter to be more aware of her surroundings with everything that happened. I instructed my other daughter (Janette) to be more on top of things regarding the case because she is bilingual.

(Diana) would take evening classes some days and morning classes other days. She would go by herself in the mornings and when she had evening classes I would drive her. She would be dropped off at 4:30 p.m. and at 9:30 p.m. I would pick her up.

She would say “tonight I am off at 9:35 p.m. or 9:40 p.m.” and when she was done, I would be there waiting for her. I didn’t know if she would be in class and the system we had is that she would call and just hang up.

So you kept close watch over your daughter after her husband was released?

Since we filed the restraining order, we started taking her (to school) and we did the same thing whether she went to the store or the school. She was never alone; it was always my wife with her or Janette.

What happened when you went to pick up Diana at City College the night of her murder?

Normally I would pick her up at 9:35 p.m. and that day it was my wife, Crystal (Diana’s daughter) and myself. We got there about 9:38 p.m. and I waited a bit because I didn’t see her where she would always wait. I waited about five to ten minutes to call her and she didn’t call back so I called again. It kept on ringing and kept on ringing, so I hung up. Three to five minutes after, all of the sudden, I (got a call) from her.

What I heard was a discussion on the phone and I don’t know why and I don’t understand – I think I might have heard wrong — but I heard what could best be described as a dog barking. Then the only thing that I could understand was “f***, f***, f***” and the phone (disconnected). The only thing I thought was that he was there again. I didn’t know what to do. I said “let’s go get
the cops, I’m not liking this.”

We looked around and could not find anyone. There were cops cars outside the campus police station, so we got to the second floor where we made the (earlier kidnapping) report and saw that the office hours ended at 8 p.m. We went around trying to look for a security guard or something, but I didn’t find anyone.

I called my other daughter and when Janette called back she asked what was happening. I said “I want you to (call) the detective (who was handling the kidnapping case) because Diana isn’t coming back. Something is going on.” At that time, I noticed cop cars coming into all the parking lots. Somebody must have called.

I told my wife “let’s go”and my wife said “no let’s not go because what if she comes? She won’t know to find us.” I said “let’s go and file a report with the police.” We got home and called 9-1-1.

Why did you leave if you saw the cop cars enter the school parking lots?

When I heard the discussion (that sounded like dogs barking) on the phone, I just thought that the worst had happened because I know him and how he was and I knew. I felt what the outcome would be.

I felt at that moment I already (knew) what had happened and I had already felt the worst. The detective came at 6:30 a.m. (the next day) and told me it was Diana who had perished.

What are your feelings on how the kidnapping case was handled?

In the first place I would have wished for the DA to investigate the case more and secondly I put my entire trust in the school thinking that there would be more security but unfortunately we came to realize that that isn’t so. I (had) heard (Armando) was going to the same classes she was, so I think that there isn’t…security there.

The only thing I would like is for this to be an example for the rest of the families. That hopefully other families will be able to demand more security (at schools and colleges) because I wouldn’t wish for any other student or any other families to go through what we did.

We are very bothered by how everything happened. What bothers me the most is that there (were) reports and we did everything we had to do, but unfortunately what happened happened. We were very hurt because of the lack of security.

I know when it happened. I was there but unfortunately, I didn’t even know what was going on. I am bewildered (with) campus security. We trusted that the school had security and we had already made a report, but unfortunately they didn’t respond.

At the service, Diana’s mother, Concepcion, was sitting front and center holding Diana’s 10-month-old daughter Crystal, who was dressed in a Dora the Explorer t-shirt.

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CITY TIMES EXCLUSIVE: Diana Gonzalez’s father recounts day of her death