“Could this be happening? A man’s nightmare made real.
Louis Gonzalez III stood accused of unspeakable acts: kidnapping, torture, sexual assault. If convicted, he faced life behind bars.”
On February 1, 2008, Tracy West of Simi Valley, California staged a physical and sexual assault on herself. She then accused ex-boyfriend and father of their 5-year old son, Louis Gonzalez, III, of the “crime.”
This wasn’t the typical minor topical scratches and light bruises some high-conflict and/or abusive personality disordered women self-inflict to get an edge in divorce and custody cases.
West pulled out all the stops to cut Gonzalez out of his son’s life.
Tracy West tore out chunks of her own hair, burned her abdomen and fingers with matches and claimed Gonzalez hogtied and attacked her vaginally and anally with a wooden hanger and tried to suffocate her with a plastic bag.
Her husband, Tim Geiges, conveniently arrived on the scene to find West tied up and naked with purple duct tape in her hair. Geiges called 911 and told the emergency operator that his wife had been attacked by her ex, Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was then arrested outside of the Montessori school his son attends while waiting to pick him up for his visitation weekend.
Gonzalez was kept in solitary lock-up for 83 days while he awaited trial. While he agonized night and day about his fate and what would happen to his son, West played the poor little victim act to the hilt.
Thanks to the stellar detective work of his defense team, attorneys Debra S. White and Jay Leiderman and forensic investigator Leigh-Anne Salinas, and the integrity of one cop, Detective David Del Marto, it became clear that West was lying about the identity of her attacker.
Eye witnesses of Gonzalez’s whereabouts that morning and afternoon, security cameras, phone records and bank withdrawals showed that it would’ve been impossible for Gonzalez to have committed the attack.
Furthermore, there was no DNA evidence to place Gonzalez at the West-Geiges residence. In fact, Detective Del Marto was amazed by the sophistication of West’s assailant and speculated that Gonzalez must’ve watched a lot of CSI to leave such an immaculate crime scene.
Someone had been doing a lot of research about how to create a crime scene, but it wasn’t Gonzalez. It was West, as evidence would later show.
During the attack, [West] said, she awoke from a blackout to find Gonzalez had placed mittens on her hands — she recalled drawstrings at the wrists — while he wore plastic gloves.
Del Marto thought this pointed to an uncommon level of sophistication — to a man who took extraordinary pains to avoid leaving fingerprints or traces of his DNA under his victim’s raking fingernails. In his report, the detective noted another detail she gave: Her attacker had worn beige-colored overalls, as if to shield his clothes from evidence.
The degree of West’s premeditation is breathtaking.
One of the first things Gonzalez told police during questioning:
This is about a custody fight, Gonzalez said. “I always just assumed that she would lie and do things to get the edge in court. I don’t know that she would go to this extent to get me in trouble. This is absurd. I mean, how can I possibly have done that?”
Thus, every man’s worst nightmare began for Gonzalez.
I firmly believe that any allegation of assault, rape or abuse made by a woman against a man with whom she’s currently embroiled in a divorce and/or custody case should be immediately suspect—especially if there’s no concrete evidence and the accused doesn’t have a prior history of violence. By the way, “because she says so” isn’t concrete evidence.
What happened to Gonzalez could happen to any man who becomes involved with and has a child with a high-conflict and/or abusive personality disordered woman. West might not have an official diagnosis, but her actions smack of sociopathy and Borderline Personality Disorder.
How did this nightmare spawned by West’s refusal to share custody begin? According to the LA Times:
[West and Gonzalez] met in a finance-class study group at the University of Nevada in summer 2001. . . Their relationship was brief. They had been apart for months when, by his account, she called during a sonogram appointment. Suddenly he was listening to the heartbeat of their son.
In her fourth month of pregnancy, West met Gonzalez at a Denny’s in Vegas. According to a police report, she said he became upset because she wouldn’t go back to him. She said he slapped her and punched her stomach.
Gonzalez’s version: They had gotten back together, and argued because she was seeing another man and lying about it. He admitted to breaking her windshield, but only after she “went nuts hitting him,” the police report said. He was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence. The charge was dropped.
The family-court battle began before the boy’s first birthday — an interminable gauntlet of judges, mediators and psychiatrists as the two argued over custody and visitation.
Gonzalez’s custody attorney, Denise Placencio, said West tried relentlessly to curtail his time with his son, accusing Gonzalez of domestic abuse and claiming the boy suffered “separation anxiety” when he was away from his mother. The campaign continued, Placencio said, after West married Geiges and moved to California with the boy.
The courts allowed Gonzalez two weekends a month with his son.
White and Salinas retraced Gonzalez’s steps the day of the alleged attack and Detective Del Marto did the same. Both investigations independently concluded that Tracy West’s story didn’t add up.
Furthermore, there was no DNA evidence of Gonzalez at the West-Geiges home and West’s medical examination showed no vaginal or anal tearing or bleeding. Initially, West told police that she was certain the attack took place between 12:30pm to 12:45pm because she was just about to leave to pick her daughter up from school. After Del Marto realized the improbability of Gonzalez being the assailant based upon evidence and the time West claimed she was attacked, he questioned West again about the time of the attack. West back-pedaled and and claimed she didn’t know what time it happened.
The lack of DNA evidence and medical evidence combined with Gonzalez’s phone records, travel time and security camera footage and West changing her story caused Detective Del Marto to believe Gonzalez was innocent.
From th LA Times:
The preliminary hearing in State vs. Gonzalez, to determine whether he should face trial, was weeks away, and Del Marto was expected to testify on West’s behalf so she wouldn’t have to. The detective did something rare in his 23-year career. He called the prosecutor to say that he was uncomfortable testifying in his own case.
Ventura County prosecutors were not deterred by this, nor by the absence of corroborating evidence. They intended to put West on the stand to tell her story. There, she would face a defense team that had lined up 10 alibi witnesses and was preparing to portray her as a pathological liar.
And then, in classic borderline fashion, West made a parasuicidal gesture to get out of going to court where she would certainly be confronted with her lies.
On April 21, 2008, the day before Gonzalez’s hearing, the prosecutors were notified that Tracy West had been admitted to the hospital for a suicide attempt. They received a note that appeared to be in West’s handwriting:
“The DA asking me to relive my horror of Louis Gonzalez attack is more than I can bear. For them it is a case. For me it is my life shattered,” read the note. “I died of Rx overdose — suicide.”
Later, in family court, West would say she did not remember writing the note and blamed the hospitalization on drugs her psychiatrist prescribed.
On April 22, 2008, the case against Gonzalez was dropped for the time being because of the unreliability of their one and only witness, Tracy West. The state reserved the right to pursue the case in the future.
Gonzalez was released and, in another classic maneuver of Crazy, Tracy West filed a restraining order against Gonzalez and successfully blocked access to their son for 8 months. Meanwhile, Gonzalez was living with the possibility of having his case reopened. Can you imagine the stress and trauma of having something like that hanging over your head?
The LA Times reports:
Getting to see his son proved tougher. He missed his 6th birthday. A custody judge withheld visitation, concerned Gonzalez might still face criminal charges. Another complication was West’s restraining order, which hung over him for months after his release, until she withdrew it just as his legal team was preparing to attack it in court.
A judge awarded him $55,000 for legal fees he incurred fighting it, though West’s subsequent declaration of bankruptcy made it doubtful he’d ever recover the money.
He was finally allowed to see his son — eight months after his arrest. It was a brief visit at the office of a family reunification specialist.
Soon after, on his day off, Del Marto gave a deposition to the family law attorney Gonzalez had enlisted to fight for full custody. All of the physical evidence had been processed, the detective said, and none of it implicated Gonzalez.
“Based on my investigation, I see no reason why he should not be able to see his son.”
In order to clear his name, Gonzalez petitioned the court for a declaration of factual innocence, which is rarely granted and difficult to obtain. Even though there was no evidence that Gonzalez committed the crime and evidence that it was impossible for him to have committed the crime, Ventura County prosecutors fought hard to prevent Gonzalez from being granted a declaration of factual innocence.
After a year long legal battle, Gonzalez prevailed and was declared innocent.
And what happened to Tracy West? She didn’t go to jail. Heck, she wasn’t even prosecuted.
The LA Times reports:
Asked why West hadn’t been charged with filing a false police report, Ellison, the Ventura County prosecutor, gave this explanation: “We could not say with 100% certainty that Tracy West was lying.”
To Gonzalez’s attorneys, who have argued vehemently for West’s arrest, the state’s decision not to charge her criminally violates the most basic moral arithmetic.
[Defense attorney] Leiderman said he thinks the district attorney’s office is embarrassed and wants the case to disappear. “No one wanted to believe a woman would make something like this up,” he said.
Gonzalez sued West for malicious prosecution, and her insurance carrier settled the case on confidential terms. He did not sue Del Marto or his department. He doesn’t blame the detective.
According to the LA Times article, Del Marto struggles with the idea that a woman could stage an assault and fabricate such horrible lies. Believe it, Detective Del Marto. Women make false allegations everyday, perhaps not to the extreme that West did, but it happens.
When investigating the West home, police found computer records showing that Tracy West visited a sexual bondage website. From the LA Times:
The site featured men and women in elaborate restraints, and a depiction of a double-loop slipknot with a little eyelet on one end. To Del Marto, it resembled the knotted cord a nurse had removed from West’s bruised neck on Feb. 1, 2008.
Del Marto said prosecutors asked him whether a case could be made against her. His reply: not without her confession. He prepared to confront her with the inconsistencies in her story. He planned to give her a lie-detector test. He couldn’t force her to cooperate, however.
“She stopped answering my phone calls,” he said.
His supervisor praised his detective work, but Del Marto found the outcome unsatisfying. No one punished was a bad way to leave it.
Meanwhile, the battle for custody of West’s and Gonzalez’s son continued. Court-appointed psychologist, John Paglini, who interviewed West 4 times, unequivocally told Las Vegas family court Judge Bill Henderson that there were only two possibilities: that either Gonzalez attacked her or West lied.
Since Gonzalez was declared innocent of the crime, that means Tracy West lied. During the custody deposition, West refused to answer questions by invoking her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
As the tide turned in Gonzalez’s favor, West blew off a court appearance in the summer of 2009 and Gonzalez was granted temporary custody. I can’t believe the court even had to deliberate this case. If Gonzalez’s and West’s genders were reversed, Gonzalez would’ve been handed permanent full custody on a silver platter and lots of ca$h.
In June 2010, Tracy West was still portraying herself as the vulnerable waif-victim. Instead of pleading the 5th, she held fast to her claims that Gonzalez attacked her, despite all the evidence to the contrary and the declaration of innocence, and insisted she deserved custody of their son.
From the LA Times:
In her closing argument, Gonzalez’s custody attorney, Denise Placencio, said West had been trying to divide father and son for years — attempting to change the boy’s surname, moving him from Nevada to California, offering Gonzalez money to relinquish parental rights.
“The last resort was to frame Mr. Gonzalez and put him in jail,” she said.
The judge concluded that West’s insistence on Gonzalez’s guilt “with no rational basis” was an attempt to remove the boy from his father’s life.
“She continues to maintain that he’s guilty of this heinous crime, and he’s not,” the judge said. “The court finds if mom is allowed to maintain primary physical custody, she’s more likely to continue with this.” She appeared to be a good mother otherwise, he said, and it was with “a heavy heart” that he awarded custody to the father.
Judge Henderson granted primary physical custody to Louis Gonzalez, III, with “a heavy heart” because West “appeared to be a good mother otherwise.”
Good mothers don’t stage elaborate crime scenes and accuse the fathers of their children of heinous crimes they didn’t commit. Good mothers don’t let the fathers of their children rot in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. Good mothers don’t try to alienate their children from their fathers. Good mothers don’t interfere with a loving father’s access to his children no matter what their personal differences are. Good mothers don’t let their children grow up to believe that their fathers are abusers and rapists.
Since losing custody, Tracy West has moved back to Las Vegas. She gets unsupervised visitation with their son every weekend. Can you imagine having to hand your child over to a woman who tried to have you thrown in jail for life every weekend at a McDonald’s or Starbuck’s as if it’s just your run of the mill custody exchange?
It’s unclear from the LA Times article if West and her husband, Tim Geiges, are still married.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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