Rocio Medina Gomez's move to the United States was supposed to give her a chance at a better life.
She dreamed of a career working with computers and had already earned a computer technology certificate from Escuela Benjamin Franklin in her hometown of Cuautla, Morelos, Mexico, south of Mexico City.
But her dreams were extinguished last year when she was stabbed repeatedly and fatally injured. Police, who arrested her former boyfriend, say Medina was one of six women killed by a partner or former partner last year in Fresno. She was only 21.
Medina came to America in October 2016 at age 20 from Ciudad Juarez, where she had moved while waiting for her green card, said friend Jonathan Alcantar, 30.
He had first met her when he traveled with his sister to Cuautla in 2014 so Medina's parents could meet their new granddaughter – Medina's brother and Alcantar's sister have a daughter together — and they quickly became friends. Alcantar said she seemed like a smart girl, and she shared her dream of moving to the U.S. to pursue a career in computer technology. Once she moved to Fresno, he said, she talked about wanting to open up her own computer repair business; she was already offering such services to Facebook friends out of her brother's home.
Juan Manuel Galindo, director of Escuela Benjamin Franklin, described Medina as an average student who was almost never absent from school in the four years she attended. Aside from English, math and science courses, the school teaches trade skills in computer and automotive technology, and accounting.
Galindo remembered Medina’s cheerful attitude, and said she often joined in singing when the school held its annual talent show.
When Medina came to the U.S., the greatest challenge she faced was not speaking English well enough, said Alcantar. Her remedy was to enroll in English-learning courses at Fresno Adult School. And when she wasn’t trying to learn there, she had a young teacher at home.
Alcantar said his niece Natalia, then 5, took it upon herself to teach English to Medina. The two would transform one corner of their home’s living room into a mini-classroom.
“I would look at both of them playing and she would be the little teacher telling Rocio, ‘OK, say this, say that. You pronounce it like this, not like that,’ ” Alcantar said. “It was really awesome.”
In-between sessions learning English, Medina took up jobs handling fruit at packinghouses, picking grapes and helping find workers for jobs at nearby fields. At one point she sold cookware and household products for a local company, Alcantar said.
“She was always moving and she was always smiling,” Alcantar said.
But all Medina's plans and dreams came to an end early one summer morning last year. Fresno police, responding to a report of a stabbing at a home in southwest Fresno about 5:30 a.m. July 15, 2017, found Medina with multiple stab wounds in her bedroom in the home she shared with her brother and sister-in-law.
The hunt for a suspect led officers to Medina’s ex-boyfriend, Victor Alberto Dominguez-Gomez, 22. Officers raced to a nearby southwest Fresno home, and when police dogs tracked him down, Dominguez-Gomez had a cut on his throat, a police report said. He was treated at Community Regional Medical Center and then booked into Fresno County Jail, where he remains while awaiting possible trial on charges of murder and domestic violence. During a recent court hearing, Dominguez-Gomez pleaded not guilty.
Two prior violent assaults on Medina, allegedly at the hands of Dominguez-Gomez, were never reported to police, the report says. Although she had broken up with Dominguez-Gomez, he wanted to keep seeing her, according to the report.
Galindo, director of Medina's school, said he and others were shocked to learn she had been killed. "It surprised us very much,” he said in Spanish.
Medina’s mother broke the news to Galindo and others when she showed up at the school one day to invite those who had known Medina to join the family at services to honor her.
Galindo said he's struggled to understand how someone like Medina came to be a victim of domestic violence.
She was “the most normal (girl), very happy,” he said.