Published Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Updated Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 2:02 p.m.
Maria Gomez thought after she’d managed to survive a 2012 machete attack that severed her hands, she’d be able to see justice brought to the ex-boyfriend who Gomez said left her maimed.
Then came the diagnosis: uterine cancer.
Gomez died Sept. 5, 2012, six months after the March, 21, 2012, attack outside the Green Valley Grocery, 530 E. Craig Road. She was 53.
For Gomez, those months were filled with a grueling regimen of doctors’ appointments to help repair her body from the attack and fight her disease.
Now, the man accused of maiming her, Armando Vergara-Martinez, 51, is headed to trial. He is charged with attempted murder with a deadly weapon, battery with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm constituting domestic violence and mayhem.
Jury selection was scheduled to start this afternoon.
Gomez won’t be there, but her legacy as a strong and vocal advocate for domestic abuse victims will be. Gomez signed paperwork before she died to allow Safe Faith United, a group that works to support victims of domestic violence, to continue to tell her story.
The group is doing just that.
In anticipation of the trial’s start, the group rallied from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today on the steps of the Clark County Regional Justice Center.
Rebeca Ferreira, founder and executive director of Safe Faith United, said the group wanted the justice system to make an example out of Vergara-Martinez, particularly because of the brutality of the case.
When police found Gomez, her hands were hacked at the wrist and her head appeared to be split open as if she had been scalped, according to a police report.
Ferreira, who was constantly at Gomez’s side after the attack and with her during her last days, said even though Vergara-Martinez wasn’t charged with murder, he might as well have killed Gomez.
“When she got the cancer, she couldn’t battle. Her abuser took her defense,” Ferreira said. “He killed her life. He killed her chances. Who can live without hands?”
In addition to sharing Gomez’s tale, the organization also created a foundation in Gomez’s name. The Maria Gomez Foundation in partnership with Dr. Carl Williams already has helped arrange plastic surgery for a woman who had part of her lip bitten off by her boyfriend, Ferreira said.
Ferreira said Gomez was passionate about sharing her story and encouraging other women to speak out against abusers. Ferreira said supporters were expected to turn out at the courthouse so Gomez’s mission could continue.
“People don’t know what Maria went through,” Ferreira said. “Even her voice has been taken away by her abuser.”