EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 17, 2013

Remembering three lives lost to domestic violence

Lawrence softball tourney dedicated to Milka Rivera and her children

By Yadira Betances

---- — LAWRENCE — With the swing of the bats and the roar of the crowd, there were also tears and sadness at a softball tournament Saturday.

Delamano, a local non-profit organization committed to domestic violence prevention, dedicated its 11th annual softball tournament in memory of Milka Rivera, 39, her daughter, Sachary Montanez, 19, and son, Max Ariel, 16, who were allegedly shot to death by Rivera’s boyfriend, Jose Luis Tejeda, in their South Lawrence home in Sept. 5, 2011.

During the opening ceremony, Milka’s sister Carmen Lizzette Rivera could not stop crying. She thought of her sister, an avid softball player, her niece, who had just started college, and her nephew, who was a standout football player for the “Reggies” at Greater Lawrence Technical High School.

Rivera along with Milka’s cousins Marisel Sevilla and Damaris Flores attended the game.

“I think of them every day and it’s a constant emotional battle,” she said. “There are days when I don’t want to do anything or see anybody and I try not to cry. It puts a big strain on the family.”

Wendy Luzon, Delamano co-founder and a candidate for city counselor, said this is the first time in the tournament’s history that female players have played in the game. Her husband, Raul Polanco, started the tournaments.

“We wanted to give women a chance because domestic violence affects mostly women,” Luzon said. “This was one of our biggest tournaments and most successful because we were able to provide a lot of information and resources.”

Luzon said 13 teams played in the tournaments, including three all-women’s teams, The Latin Stars and The Amazonians both of Lawrence, and another group from Chelsea.

“We named the team the Amazonians because they are fighters and strong women who do not give up,” Rivera said.

Each team paid $150 to participate and the proceeds benefited Delamano.

In addition to having an emergency hotline, the group places women and families at risk in hotels, Luzon said.

Delamano Inc. is a local non-profit organization committed to domestic violence intervention and awareness. It operates an independent Spanish and English helpline and provides victims with access to emergency shelter, advocacy, support, counseling and educational programs. Through intervention and education, the group hopes to eliminate domestic violence.

Rivera said hosting a softball tournament with both men and women participating is a step in the right direction.

“It’s always good to remember, provide information and raise awareness about domestic violence,” Rivera said.

Two years after her family members’ deaths at their home in the Beacon Court housing projects, Rivera still wonders if there were signs she missed about the domestic abuse going on at her sister’s home.

“I never saw anything wrong. Every time I saw them, they were always happy and it never crossed my mind that my sister was in any danger,” she said.

After allegedly shooting Rivera and her teenage children, Tejeda tried to commit suicide but ran out of bullets. He awaits trial and has a status hearing scheduled for Oct. 24 in Salem Superior Court.

Whenever Tejeda is in court, so is Rivera.

“I leave with a headache every time, but I want to be there until justice is served so I can find some closure,” Rivera said.

If you need help with domestic violence, call Delamano at 1-866-962-5483 or YWCA of Lawrence at 978-687-0331.