NYC woman shares story of domestic violence to empower others
12/06/2017 4:46 pm PST
Nearly every week here on Crime Watch Daily, we cover dangerous and often deadly cases of domestic violence. And we hear a similar theme. "I just couldn't find a way to get out."
In an emotional new interview, one survivor relives her violent attack, hoping it will empower someone out there right now who's living in fear.
Evimer Duclerc cheated death by a single centimeter. Her own devastating Bronx tale is one of terror, domination and raging violence -- and a bullet to the head, all of it at the hands of someone who professed his undying devotion.
And against all odds, Evimer Duclerc lives to tell of the physical horror of the past, the emotional scars of the present, and her courageous goals for the future.
Evimer has more than a deep bond with her close girlfriends. No doubt her vibrant personality and stunning looks were a magnet for male attention. One man in particular was Ramon Lalondriz-Castillo, who worked in a neighborhood deli. Castillo was moonstruck over the Bronx beauty.
"Every time I would come over to the store, he would keep asking me 'Who is she? Can you give me her number?' And this and that," said Evimer's friend Joana Candelario.
The ever-protective Joana refused. But she had a plan.
"I was like, 'Hey, I'm going to tell her that you've been asking about her and I'll see what she says,' and that's how it was," said Joana.
"I found him interesting and I went out on a date," Evimer tells Crime Watch Daily.
It seemed like a match.
"He was very nice. He was very attentive to what Evi wanted, and to what her friends wanted as well. He made us feel very comfortable," said Evimer's friend Dynasty Reynoso.
But it wasn't a perfect union.
"Early in the relationship we had a couple of arguments, little arguments, but it was relationship problems that escalated with the time," said Evimer.
Joana remembers a night she was out with Evimer and Ramon. When they returned home for the evening, Joana says, Ramon became enraged when he wasn't invited in.
"He grabbed her by her hair, pulled her back into the car," said Joana. "So when he did that, I was like 'No. This is what we're not about to do, no, this is not right.'"
"I remember one day she came to my house and he literally left his car double-parked outside in the middle of the street for like 30 minutes and went upstairs and tried to carry her out of my house," said Dynasty. "That's when I was like 'Whoa, this guy is really crazy.'"
Dynasty and Joana were beginning to see red flags waving everywhere, especially after Evimer told them about one particular night of rage.
"He tried me force me to have sex with him," said Evimer. "I actually didn't want to have sex with him that night, and he was so mad at the fact that I was saying no that he pulled me from the bed. I was wearing thongs and he actually like cut me."
Despite that, for Evimer, love, as they say, was blind.
"She really wanted to see the good in him. So she was like, 'You know, we were drinking, I don't think this is going to happen again.'"
If Evimer wasn't yet able to see the temperamental Ramon's need for control and domination, she was about to get a rude and violent awakening.
"The relationship took a turn when we took a trip to Florida," said Evimer.
It was Evimer's birthday and she wanted to celebrate in Miami Beach. But not with anyone from the opposite sex.
"It was a girls trip. It was my birthday. My friends didn't want any males around. It was just for us to be comfortable," said Evimer.
Ramon would have none of that. He insisted on crashing the party. So off they went to Florida: The girls, and the unwelcome Ramon.
"That first night when we went out was the first big problem where I just realized who he was. We went out, we was clubbing, everything was fine," said Evimer. "All of the sudden he says 'Let's go upstairs' in front of everybody. I'm like 'Let's wait, we're having a good time, nobody is leaving yet, let's just stay a little more.' 'No, I said let's go,' that was his reply. 'I said let's go and that's it.'
"My response to him was 'Well, if you want to, go ahead, go ahead, I'll meet you upstairs, but I'm not leaving now,'" said Evimer.
Ramon went to the room, angry. And when Evimer returned later, she would pay a brutal price.
"We heard the screaming from her and I went to go and check on what was going on, and he was beating her, like the room was flipped over and he was in the balcony with her, with his hand on her hair and pulling her and trying to choke her," said Dynasty.
"He punched me, he threw me down, hit me," said Evimer. "When I got to reach the door to pull it, he grabbed me by the purse to pull me back.
"He stood in the room and he was saying he was just saying he was going to kill himself, to not call the cops, that he was going to throw himself off the balcony," said Evimer.
Hotel management had called 911 and within minutes, Ramon was enraged, in handcuffs and arrested. It was a moment of reckoning for Evimer and her friends.
"We were like 'Leave him there. That's it. This is your moment to break up with him,'" said Dynasty.
Evimer was still reluctant to cut ties -- a common characteristic for victims of abuse: self-blame.
"She was like in denial at that point," said Dynasty. "I think in some kind of way she thought maybe she triggered that. She was mad, but not that mad at him."
But thankfully, Evimer Duclerc eventually saw the light and knew what she had to do.
Evimer Duclerc finally had enough of her controlling boyfriend Ramon Lalondriz-Castillo. And after a violent fight while the two were on vacation, the native New Yorker returned home to start over.
Sadly he had other ideas. It wouldn't be a clean break.
Ramon had made bail in Florida after the hotel room assault on Evimer and returned to the Bronx, still a ticking time bomb. Evimer treaded carefully.
"My excuse to him was 'We need our space in order for this to work,'" said Evimer.
In typical abuser fashion, Ramon apologized repeatedly and became obsessed with winning her back.
"He would just buy her things, literally he would just buy things. Like anything you could think of, he would just get her," said Joana. "I remember her telling me, like, 'I don't know how to get rid of him, like 'I try and he still comes.'"
It took two agonizing months for Ramon to finally get the message.
"He called me. I'm still at work. He's like 'Well, I am going to take all my stuff from the apartment and I'm going to leave you the keys,'" said Evimer.
Evimer was now free from the grip of domestic violence -- or so she thought.
"He went, destroyed the whole apartment. It was November. I already had put up the Christmas tree. There was ornaments all over, Christmas tree over there. All my clothes was out, the wardrobe, like everything was broken glass, broken mirrors," said Evimer.
"Her door was glued. He glued her door to the apartment," said Joana.
"Called the cops, made a report. He actually ended up paying for everything that he broke, and that was the end of that. He actually left my house for good," said Evimer.
In fact, Ramon seemed to simply fly off the radar.
"There's no sign of this guy. I haven't seen him. I've heard from friends we have in common he started to work," said Evimer. "He was getting his cab-driving license, so I'm like, 'Hey, maybe you know, he needs to get his life together.'"
Hardly. Ramon was just taking a break from his reign of terror. And so it begins again.
"Ramon would show up to her job, to school, to our friends house. Anywhere he knew that Evi was at or with a friend," said Dynasty. "He will break my lights of my car because he thought that she was using my car to go out."
Evimer once again was forced to live life shadowed by a madman.
"We were actually like waiting for it, like, OK, something big has to happen for this to end. Every week was something with him," said Dynasty.
But Dynasty, Joana and even Evimer could never have predicted just how big that "something" would be. On a frigid January night in New York, Evimer's shift was almost over at the pharmacy where she worked in Manhattan. Her coworker Demetrius Johnson makes a chilling observation.
"Demetrius comes back and he's like, 'Your ex is parked outside the store. Are you waiting for him?'" said Evimer. "Right now I was just like, I don't know what to expect. I haven't spoken to him. I guess I was scared, but I didn't want to show him that I was scared. So I'm like 'You know, what Demetrius just give me a second so we can both walk to the train together.' He was actually taking the same train as me.
"We walk outside. He is nowhere to be seen," said Evimer. "There's no cars. It's below zero and we have like a good six blocks to walk."
Evimer tries to stay calm but keeps looking over her shoulder. And suddenly what she sees is no illusion. It's a maniac on a mission.
"I looked back and he was like rushing, like speed-walking towards me, and his hat was down. He had a big coat but his hand was inside his pocket," said Evimer. "So I looked back and I'm like, 'Demitri, that's him. That's him.' I started speed-walking, I ran.
"Demetrius grabs him like to stop him and he was not trying to hit Demetrius back. His goal was me. I threw myself on the floor and I grabbed myself like this."
"He is grabbing me by the hair, trying to pull me up but it's not possible. Demetrius is actually forcing him and hitting him, 'Let her go, let her go.' All I feel is my head going side to side."
Evimer doesn't even realize what's happened to her.
"All I know is I feel this really cold and when I actually touched it, it was a lot of blood behind my head."
In an act of obsession and vengeance, Ramon Lalondriz-Castillo pulled out a handgun and fired at Evimer, hitting her once in the arm and once in the head. The second bullet grazed her finger and lodged inches above her right ear. But she's still conscious.
Ramon was determined to complete the job. But fate would take a lifesaving turn when he tried to fire again. The gun jammed. Ramon turned and ran.
"I feel like if the gun would have never jammed on the third strike, that would have been the bullet that killed me. It was at a close distance," said Evimer.
Evimer's story of survival has been nothing short of miraculous. She remained conscious all the way to the hospital. And doctors told Evimer that the bullet lodged in her head was just one centimeter away from killing her. Evimer believes she owes her life to her friend Demetrius who valiantly tried to fight off Ramon.
"He didn't get that perfect shot because Demetrius kept moving him, forcing him and trying to punch him to get him away from me, so he never had that good angle to get what he wanted," said Evimer.
Ramon didn't get far. He was in police custody in a matter of minutes. Cops found a suicide note in his car.
"I feel like he realized he messed up," said Evimer. "I wasn't going to give him another chance. Shooting me, maybe it was his idea of 'She won't be mine, she won't be nobody else's.'"
And even after Ramon was arrested and charged, Evimer received another love letter wrought with sorrow and begging forgiveness.
"Everything I did was because I love you."
Ramon Lalondriz-Castillo was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison. But that's little comfort to anyone.
"I feel like he is going to try to find me, he's going to try to find her, one of us," said Joana. "I feel like he's going to come back for one of us. It is scary."
Like Evimer, millions of women get caught in the tangled web of abuse. Those who say "just walk away" don't understand the dynamics of domestic violence.
But through her story, Evimer and her friends hope to give strength and encouragement to others locked in the same living hell.
"Don't think you can fight off, don't think you can win it off," said Dynasty. "Speak to someone, don't be ashamed. Get the help that you need and try to get out of it alive."
"You can demand how you want to be treated," said Joana.
For Evimer Duclerc there are battle scars.
"I wake up panicking, thinking something's going to happen," said Evimer. "I wake up thinking the whole world's about to end."
But those scars are symbols of survival and newfound wisdom.
"I got the help that I needed," said Evimer. "I went to therapy. I did what I had to do. I went back to school. I got my bachelor's degree. I didn't let that stop my life. I had to continue. I had to make sure that this was not going to set my life up. This wasn't going to be it."