Denver Post

Tuesday, July 6, 1999

Dad blames killer's wife in slayings

By Jason Blevins
Denver Post Staff Writer

The father of Simon Gonzales, the 30-year-old man who shot and killed his three daughters last month before dying in a gun battle with Castle Rock police, said Monday that part of the blame for the tragedy lies with his son's estranged wife.

Leroy Gonzales said Monday that his son broke down under financial burdens imposed by his divorce settlement with Jessica Gonzales and her insistence that she should have custody of their daughters.

"I think he was just so afraid that those girls were going to be taken away from him that he just snapped,'' Leroy Gonzales said. "He was tired, overworked, overburdened and, on top of all that, she was telling him that his children were going to be taken away from him.''

A relative of Jessica Gonzales said she would have no comment.

It has been 13 days since Simon Gonzales slowly drove up to the Castle Rock police station and opened fire, engaging four stunned officers in a gunfight that left him dead. Inside the cab of his Ford pickup, police found the bodies of his three daughters, ages 7, 8 and 10. Rebecca, Katheryn and Leslie Gonzales had all been shot by their father, police said.

Gonzales said his son was "at the end of his rope'' when his wife requested a restraining order that would limit the amount of time he could spend with his daughters.

"The sun rose and set on those girls in my son's life,'' he said. "He rented an apartment so he could see his kids as often as he could. He was in love with his children. He was always hugging them, making them smile, making them laugh. They adored him. They looked at him with adoring eyes.''

He sometimes worked three jobs to "give his children everything,'' Gonzales said. The son's leg, which was injured during a stint in the Marines, caused him constant pain, he said.

Simon Gonzales was paying child support, payments on his wife's home, payments on almost $36,000 in debt he and his wife had accumulated in their nine-year marriage and rent at his own apartment, he said.

"The financial burden was just tremendous,'' Gonzales said. "And she's the one who made him that way. He was just killing himself, working around the clock, paying all her bills and then she tells him she's taking the kids and she's going to take him for everything that he's worth.

"But my son was a man among men. He didn't talk about his problems. He tried to work them out on his own. He told himself that he came into the marriage and if there's problems, he'll work three, four, five jobs and take care of it himself. It's a Hispanic macho thing.''

Leroy Gonzales said he and his wife, Mona, dismiss media portrayals of their son as a heartless madman run amok. They remember their slight son as a gentle man, who was never violent and often hugged his mother and three sisters.

He was religious, they said, having attended Catholic Sunday school in Pueblo for his entire youth. He was determined to make his crumbling marriage work, Leroy Gonzales said, despite his wife's constant rejection of his attempts at reconciliation.

Simon Gonzales dropped out of high school just one month before graduation, opting to join the Marines, where he earned his GED and finished in the top two out of a company of 100 men in his boot camp, his father said. After 1 1/2 years in the service, he injured his leg and endured several surgeries, his father said. Once discharged, Simon moved in with Jessica's family in Denver and earned an associate's degree in accounting.

After moving to their own home, the couple had a daughter, Rebecca in May 1989. They married the next year, and later celebrated the births of Katheryn and Leslie in 1990 and 1992. But problems soon plagued their marriage.

In 1992, Jessica Gonzales filed for a divorce. But according to court records, Simon Gonzales tried to hang himself in front of the children, prompting her to abandon the attempt to end their relationship.

Leroy Gonzales said the court record, filed by Jessica two months ago in a request for a temporary restraining order, is "baloney.''

Eventually, the marriage disintegrated, with the couple filing jointly for divorce in December last year. Despite the filing, Simon struggled to repair his marriage, Gonzales said. But Jessica was determined to end their relationship, he said.

"Eventually it just all piled up,'' Gonzales said of his son's last moments. "She was going to take away his girls and his mind just broke. The mind is a fragile thing ... and he probably thought: The only way I could protect my girls is to take them out and myself, too. He went to the police station, not to hurt any police, but to die. His girls were gone and he wanted to be with them. He wanted to die.''

For now, like their estranged daughter-in-law who has refused to talk to them, Leroy and Mona Gonzales are struggling day to day.

"We have no doubt that our son and his three little girls are in heaven right now. Together,'' Gonzales said, his voice cracking into a whisper. "That is what comforts us.''

Copyright 1999 The Denver Post.