By Emily Brown
How can someone have the grace to forgive a person who viciously murdered three loved ones?
For Dyanne Gonzales forgiveness was not an easy task, but it was something she knew she had to do in order to cope with the horrific loss of life. On Father’s Day 2011 her older brother Lloyd, her sister-in-law Dixie, and her 22-year-old nephew Stephen were all brutally killed in their home in the middle of the night.
Lloyd and Dixie were both raised in the same small community near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and had been married since they were teenagers. They had two grown daughters and an adopted son with special needs. The family was active and well respected in the community, and Lloyd took great pride in the craftsmanship of his work as a custom tile setter. Dixie volunteered at a nursing home and was always helping those in need. She was a constant advocate for their son Stephen.
On the night they were murdered, the killer seemed to have every intention of robbing the home. Lloyd, apparently awakened by a noise in the backyard, got out of bed and stepped outside to investigate. It was there that he met the intruder and was ambushed with a pickaxe and left to die. The killer then entered the residence and headed straight for the bedroom where Dixie, still sleeping, was killed with the same weapon. Their son Stephen, apparently also awakened by the noises in the house and seemingly on his way to his parents’ bedroom, met with the intruder in the kitchen. He put up a fight, but was overcome by the brutal attack and collapsed and died on the kitchen floor. All three people were killed by direct blows to the head from a pickaxe.
This heinous, brutal, and senseless murder left the family and their small community in New Mexico in complete and utter shock. Even though the perpetrator was not identified until four years later, Dyanne knew from the beginning that the only choice she had in order to begin to cope with the horrific death of her family members was to forgive.
Because Dyanne chose forgiveness, she felt God showed her a very vivid analogy to understand this tragedy. She stated: “Through this forgiveness, I felt peace and I felt like God showed me how this violation—being killed in what should be the safety of your home, in the warmth and comfort of your bed, resting peacefully in the middle of the night—is just like the violation of unborn children being violently killed in the warmth and comfort of the womb, where they should be the most secure, and protected.”
Through this terrible tragedy, God opened Dyanne's eyes to the plight of abortion and she's been involved in the pro-life movement ever since. Before this tragic incident, she had never talked about abortion, even though she was brought up in the Church. Dyanne says it best: “We are called to forgive—no exceptions, and we are called to love and to protect—no exceptions. Just as God forgives us and loves us without exception and without compromise.”
In 2015 there was a break in the case and the suspect was arrested. He was only 16 at the time he committed these heinous acts. After the first trial ended in a hung jury, justice was finally served when a second jury reached a guilty verdict on all counts in December 2016. Sentencing is scheduled for April 20, 2017. As required by New Mexico law, the killer will be required to serve a minimum of three consecutive 30-year terms without the possibility of parole.
Finally Dyanne has a name and a face to go with the person she forgave.
Emily Brown, the granddaughter of Judie Brown, graduated magna cum laude from Mount St. Mary’s University with a bachelor’s degree in special and elementary education and a minor in theology in May 2015. She is the former director of ALL’s Life Defenders and is now an elementary teacher in Spotsylvania, Virginia.