Woman sold for 30,000 pesos
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
May 4, 2009 · Updated 5:26 PM
Island County prosecutors are handling a difficult and disturbing case involving an allegation of attempted rape, a rare indigenous language, and what a deputy prosecutor called “slavery.”
An 18-year-old Coupeville woman who is the mother of two small children reported to police April 10 that her husband, 23-year-old Miguel De Jesus, had assaulted her, court documents state.
During an investigation, Deputy Robert Mirabal with the Coupeville Marshal’s Office discovered a history of domestic and sexual abuse perpetrated by De Jesus, the police report states.
Shockingly, the young woman said her father had sold her to De Jesus two years ago in her Mexican hometown. De Jesus paid 30,000 pesos for her, which is just over $2,000.
“It’s slavery. It’s 100 percent slavery,” Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said.
“I think it’s more common than we suspect,” he added.
Ohme explained that De Jesus and his wife are Trique, who are indigenous people from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The practice of dowries and teenaged marriages are part of their customs, though many sources about the Trique culture indicate that the girl must consent.
But in this case, the young woman’s opinion apparently wasn’t taken into consideration. Mirabal wrote that she was worried she would eventually have to go back to De Jesus because her father couldn’t return the 30,000 pesos. She said she didn’t want to go back to him.
“She has nowhere to go,” Ohme said. “If she went back home she would be in danger because she’s gone against the tradition.”
De Jesus won’t face any charges for allegedly purchasing his wife, but he probably won’t be free anytime soon. Ohme charged De Jesus in Island County Superior Court April 20 with attempted rape in the second degree, a domestic violence charge. Judge Alan Hancock set his bail at $125,000.
Also, Ohme said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a hold on De Jesus, presumably because he’s in the country illegally. The deputy prosecutor said he doesn’t know what the victim’s citizenship status is and he doubts the agency will go after her or her children.
De Jesus speaks Trique, Ohme said, which is a rare language in the United States. He said there’s only a couple of people in the state who can translate the language, which could make the case much more difficult and expensive. A translator is scheduled to be in court Monday at De Jesus’ arraignment.
According to court documents, Mirabal and a state trooper responded to a trailer park on Terry Road in the early morning on April 10. They found the alleged victim at a neighbor’s house. She was crying and told the officer, through a translator, that De Jesus had hit her, kicked her and tried to rape her, Mirabal wrote.
The woman also detailed past abuses, the report states.
Ohme said the woman is receiving help from Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse. According to court documents, she’s concerned about being able to pay rent without her husband.
“I’m sure she’s very confused and scared,” he said.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.