On August 11th, Perla Morales of Tucson took a loaded pistol from behind the cushions of a chair in her living room. She pointed it at her four year old daughter Emma’s head and, from two feet away, fired three times, killing her. Then she went to her 17 month old son Richard and did the same before slitting her own wrists and neck. Read about it here (Arizona Republic, 10/21/12).
Perla Morales didn’t die. She’s now in prison charged with two counts of murder. In its own weird way, the linked-to article tells us a lot about how we treat mothers and fathers in this country. Somehow, by the end of the article, Perla Morales comes out looking like an angel. In the process, her fairly lengthy history of wrongdoing becomes submerged; it’s visible if you look hard enough, but barely.
The article is long, maybe 1,800 words. It’s full of the sadness that all feel about the pointless deaths of the two children. It treats Richard Rosovich, who played the role of father to the children, with great compassion and understanding. He in turn does the same for the woman who gave birth to the children but ended up killing them. (She’s admitted as much to police.)
“The kids were beautiful kids, and she was a beautiful mom,” Rosovich said. “She wasn’t a monster. She did a monstroful thing.”It’s a moving story of delightful children and “the most beautiful mom” who committed an “inexplicable crime” and a grieving dad. There’s much more to it than that, but you have to read the article carefully to find it. The depression that Morales lapsed into before she killed her kids was largely self-induced.
Asked why she may have killed her children, Rosovich just shakes his head: “I don’t know. It’s crazy.”
…It’s easy to spot the family’s bungalow in a gritty south Tucson neighborhood. There are crosses in front.
Two of the crosses are adorned with pink and white garlands and surrounded by candles, photos of the children and their favorite toys — a stuffed toy monkey, a doll, a small football and a yellow dump truck.
Two tricycles and a red wagon are in the backyard, now overgrown by weeds.
Emma’s relatives describe a precocious child, who did well in her preschool class.
Rosovich, 36, remembers how she’d wait in the driveway every day for him to come home from his job in demolition. She’d take care of her baby brother. One time, when they ran out of milk, she mixed a bottle of water and rice and gave it to him.
Emma was interested in everything. She liked to paint and write and play with her dolls. She was talkative and had lots of friends in nearby Pueblo Gardens preschool. Her favorite book was “Five Little Monkeys.” Her favorite movie was “Beauty and the Beast.” She told her dad she wanted to fly airplanes.
Dozens of snapshots paint the same picture. Emma’s always smiling, always hugging somebody. Her dark eyes alive with curiosity.
“What I really loved …” Rosovich said, composing himself. “She would hug me, and kiss me on the neck and say, ‘I love you, Daddy.’ Then she’d say, ‘Can I have a happy meal?’ I always took her.
“Emma was the most amazing kid. I didn’t know they could come like that.”
A trace of a smile crosses Rosovich’s face when he describes his son. Richard Jr. was starting to babble. He loved to kick and throw a ball. He was strong and athletic, Rosovich said. One time, Richard Jr. did a slow striptease out of his diaper. When they’d go out shopping, women would come up and talk to him.
“He was a real ladies’ man,” Rosovich said.
Richard would follow Emma around and try to do everything she did, even jump off the couch with her. He’d put her Barbies in a truck and drive them around. His favorite movie was “Gnomeo and Juliet.”
For Morales, the kids “were her everything,” Rosovich said. “She was the most beautiful mom.”
Perla Morales and Richard Rosovich had an off-again/on-again relationship. Once, during an “off-again” phase, she went to a bar and ended up having sex with a man named Javier Mejia. Emma was his daughter, not Rosovich’s, but Morales never let on to Rosovich about Mejia or about the possibility that the child might be the other man’s. Rosovich was elated at the news of her pregnancy; he was ready to be a dad, but that dream of domestic bliss was shattered when Emma was two and Mejia contacted Morales to tell her he wanted to be a father to his daughter.
In late 2010, Morales broke the news to Rosovich, he recalled. “She sat me down and said, ‘I have to talk to you.’ She was sad and worried,” he said, adding he was upset.But there’s more. Mejia wanted to see more of his daughter, so he and his attorney requested the court give him custody.
Then she got into a deep funk, he said.
Mejia tricked Morales’ family into a DNA test, she and relatives told police. Later, in court, a judge ordered her to take parenting classes, and Mejia’s lawyer told her she was a bad mother for going to work at a new job rather than drop Emma off for visitation with Mejia.The English translation of that is this: Mejia had reason to believe he was Emma’s father, and he could have gotten a court to order a DNA test, so Morales agreed to one. Apparently, Morales wasn’t the sainted mother Rosovich describes. In fact, she was a bad enough mother that the court ordered her to take parenting classes. She also refused to allow Mejia to see his daughter, preferring to put her in daycare at her job to letting him have her during some workdays.
Article Glorifies Mom Despite Paternity Fraud and MurderIn short, through the cloud of “beautiful mothers” and stuffed animals, what we see in the article is a mother who committed paternity fraud against two men, refused one man’s efforts to see his daughter, and was a bad enough parent that she herself feared she’d lose custody to a man who hadn’t set eyes on his daughter for the first 2 1/2 years of her life. It takes a lot of shellac to gloss over all that, but the article does its best.
And of course Rosovich was none too thrilled to have been duped by her.
Morales grew increasingly worried Mejia would take her daughter. It created strains with Rosovich and they argued more, relatives reported…Those are the types of things that happen when a mother lies to men about who the father of her child is – they get upset. So, apparently do the children.
Another argument erupted on the day of the shooting, Morales told police. The refrigerator gave out and Rosovich was trying to hunt down a replacement. Morales wanted to go to a family pizza party. Rosovich said no. It escalated.
He told her he was “done with her,” said he wasn’t coming back and stormed out.
Emma started having nightmares about being snatched through the window. She was afraid to be babysat at her grandmother’s house or to visit with Mejia, Rosemary told police. Perla got counseling to help her with the new stresses in her life.That’s the thing about paternity fraud; it injures so many people. That some people, including the writer of the linked-to article, want to defend it tells us a lot about family law and practice in 2012. There’s seemingly nothing a mother can do – in this case not bad parenting, not paternity fraud, not murder – to convince others that she’s in the wrong. Meanwhile, the most moral, loving, responsible fathers are shoved aside like trash in the gutter. Read the few words the article spends on Javier Mejia to see what I mean. According to them, he’s not a stand-up dad who wants to be part of his daughter’s life, he’s a menace to a “beautiful mother’s” exclusive relationship with the child.
The mass communications media play a role in shaping social perceptions and expectations. As long as papers like this one bend over backwards to present mothers like Perla Morales in a positive light, fathers will continue to be shunted aside by family courts, and children will continue to suffer nightmares of sudden, inexplicable loss.