“Six days after reporting domestic violence, Noemi Villarreal was dead”
Corpus Christi Caller-Times/Gannett
June 25, 2016
Noemi Villarreal was a stripper. She’d faced drug problems, emotional turmoil and the life that often comes with being poor.
She also was the catalyst that changed police policy in Corpus Christi.
Her death at the hands of her boyfriend could have become just another number in the domestic violence tally the Caller-Times has kept since 2014.
But Natalia Contreras and Krista M. Torralva doggedly worked to obtain the documents that detailed the final days of Noemi’s life and her interaction with the Corpus Christi Police Department.
Through Freedom of Information requests, they learned Noemi’s plea for help from police went ignored for days simply because she made her report on a Friday and family violence detectives didn’t work weekends.
Noemi was beaten, strangled, stuffed naked in a trash can and lit aflame after telling police about her abusive relationship via a phone reporting system. Because she wasn’t in “immediate danger” her call went unanswered until days later. A letter saying her case was being closed arrived in the mail after her burned body was found.
Her killing prompted Caller-Times Publisher Libby Averyt to pen a front page commentary headlined, “Please, we’re begging you, do something.”
And police did. No longer are family violence detectives off on weekends. And no longer will police simply take phone reports, officers must meet with the victim regardless of the danger level at the time of reporting.
Changes that likely wouldn’t have come about without Contreras and Torralva refusing to let Noemi Villarreal become another statistic.
Submitted by Allison Ehrlich.