Valero murder-suicide a grimly predictable ending
Really don't know what to think this morning, but I wish I could say the news reports coming out of Venezuela for the last 36 hours surprised me.
Sunday morning we learned that Yennifer Carolina Viera, the wife of former WBC lightweight champ Edwin Valero, had been killed and that Valero was in custody in connection with the crime. Then this morning I was awoken by a text message from Hardcore Sports Radio producer and good friend Corey Erdman, confirming our worst-case-scenario speculation from a conversation we'd had Sunday night -- that when the full weight of the tragedy crashed down on Valero, he might kill himself.
But how can I come to a definitive conclusion about what happened in Venezuela this weekend when the news reports filtering out of that country still offer as many questions as answers?
The link posted above says another inmate at the city jail encouraged Valero to kill himself before Valero fashioned a noose out of his own clothing and hanged himself from the bars in his cell. Prison guards sprinted to the scene when they heard the commotion but Valero died shortly after they arrived.
But this story from the Associated Press says the other inmate simply summoned guards after discovering Valero's body.
Both reports confirm a grimly predictable end to the Valero narrative, but neither provides the deeper answers we crave about why a national hero would do something so savage to the mother of his two young children.
Truth is those answers might never emerge and before we truly make sense of this tragedy we have to accept it for what it is.
A waste, undoubtedly.
Two promising young lives extinguished, two young children orphaned.
A mystery, certainly.
Was Valero too proud to continue living after taking his wife's life, or too cowardly to accept the consequences of his actions?
But a shock?
Before any of this went down we knew Valero had talent. Twenty-seven straight knockouts don't happen by accident, and in his last fight, a ninth round knockout over Antonio DeMarco, Valero showed remarkable maturity and polish for a knockout artist, taking punches, avoiding punches, maintaining composure and chopping away at DeMarco until the Mexican retired on his stool.
But Valero's issues have always been just as obvious as his ability, and while you always hoped his ability would prevail you also couldn't ignore that his issues were gaining the upper hand.
* Last September he was accused of hitting his mother and younger sister, a charge he vehemently denied.
* In March his wife was hospitalized with a punctured lung and broken ribs. Police said the injuries resulted from Valero's abuse; Valero's lawyer said Viera fell from the roof of the family's home. He allegedly threatened both hospital staff who treated Viera and police who arrived to arrest him.
* As a result of that assault charge, he was ordered to undergo drug and alcohol rehab. He was scheduled to travel to a clinic in Cuba but an April 9 car crash delayed his departure indefinitely.
Still, I'm not going to pretend I knew from the very beginning that Valero's story would end with with a murder and a delayed suicide.
Yes, you can trace his issues back to the motorcycle crash that led to the brain surgery that led U.S. boxing authorities to ban him from fighting in the states.
And yes, he undermined his own cause when after finally gaining a license to fight in Texas, he caught a DUI charge, derailing his efforts to gain a U.S. visa and relegating him again to fights in far-flung places.
In retrospect they look like early signs of bigger trouble, and an easy conclusion to reach after the tragedy.
But for every Lawrence Phillips -- an athlete who committs increasingly serious infractions until finally earning a lengthy prison term -- there's a Josh Hamilton, an athlete who appears destined for a tragic end before finding redemption.
Some guys figure it out, some don't. The dots don't always connect.
Nevertheless the blend of domestic violence and drug abuse is about as toxic a mix as you can concoct. Even when you factor in the restraining order a Venezuelan court issued against Valero it wasn't difficult to imagine the level of violence skyrocketing without a more definitive intervention.
And that apparently never came.
But therein lies another temptation we need to resist in analyzing this tragedy.
It's easy to add Valero to the pantheon of athletes who have killed their significant others, and his subsequent suicide probably accords him special status. And if Valero were a player in a mainstream North American sport we would already have been flooded with news stories and expert interviews dissecting where he fits into this "trend."
As if dregding up past tragedies adds instant context to a fresh one.
As if the dynamics of domestic violence are somehow different because one of the people involved is famous.
And as if shoehorning this murder-suicide into a pre-existing paradigm will help us make sense of an inherently senseless act.
I've been around too long to draw a straight line between the testosterone-addled world of pro sports and the sad reality of spousal abuse.
Five years ago I covered cops and courts in York Region and followed the sentencing hearing of a Woodbridge resident named Cosimo Pasqualino, who had a history of spousal abuse, and who had been convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting of his wife, Marisa.
One morning after their children had left for school he unearthed the gun he kept hidden in his house, cornered his wife and shot her in the head several times. He then drove to his lawyer's office and waited for police to pick him up.
While Pasqualino read a statement in court apologizing for his actions, I sat a few metres away from Marisa's uncle, massive man who muttered to himself as he mashed a fist into his palm and glared at Pasqualino.
Outside the courtroom I spoke with employees from the women's shelter where Marisa Pasqualino sought refuge from her husband's rage.
And I listened to the couple's then-grown children, who refused to call their father anything but Cosimo, tell me they rarely left their parents alone together because they feared what their father would do to their mother if given the opportunity.
When the opportunity arose, he acted, slaying his wife and earning himself a life sentence in the penitentiary.
And when I wrote the story nobody asked me about the connection between his job -- pizza parlour owner -- and the crime he committed.
Nobody asked me to pull together a graphic featuring restaurateurs who batter and kill their wives.
Everybody involved with publishing that story accepted it for what it was:
A tragedy that stands on its own.
The same with the deaths of Yennifer Carolina Viera and Edwin Valero.
Her slaying isn't any easier to understand because her husband threw punches for a living, nor was it easier to avoid. Spousal abuse cuts across lines of race, class and occupation. If Valero were a plumber or cab driver a similar heartbreaking sequence of events may still have unfolded.
The only difference is that we would never have heard about it.