For 33 years, Yolanda Angel Magana has made sure that her slain brother, Javier, has not been forgotten.
Magana was just 12 years old when little Javier Angel was found brutally murdered on Dec. 2, 1978, and that tragedy has shaped her life ever since.
The 7-year-old boy disappeared from the family’s Villareal Market on Haley Street in Santa Barbara. His body was found hours later in a nearby duplex. He had been beaten and strangled, and his body stuffed into plastic trash bags and placed under a bed.
A year later, Julia Diaz was convicted of killing Javier in what prosecutors said was part of an extortion plot. She was sentenced to life in prison, and remains incarcerated at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla.
Throughout the intervening years, Magana has been “a tireless advocate for her brother and her family,” according to Joyce Dudley, Santa Barbara County’s district attorney.
For her years of dedication to her brother’s memory, Magana was honored Friday with a “Citizen of Courage” award.
Magana has attended all of Diaz’s parole hearings “to ensure that the state Parole Board continues to understand and acknowledge the impact of this crime,” Dudley said.
During the last parole hearing in July 2011, Dudley noted, Diaz was denied parole for the maximum term of 15 years, “thanks to Yolanda’s tireless advocacy.”
“It’s a big, big relief,” Magana told Noozhawk in an interview after Friday’s ceremony. “I hope the next time I hear from them, they tell me she (Diaz) no longer exists on this earth.”
“It’s bittersweet,” Magana said after the ceremony, “because I’ve come to be recognized for something that’s been so troubling for our family for so many years.”
Magana, 46, who still lives in Santa Barbara, is married with two adult sons. She described how the crime — and the years of attending parole hearings — have had a tremendous impact on her.
“It made me a very a vigilant person in raising my own family,” she said. “We did everything as a normal family, but there were always those instances of worry. … Getting past the seven-year mark, after what happened to my brother, was difficult.”
Dudley offered her own perspective on Magana’s award.
“We who provide services to crime victims believe a (surviving) victim is only a victim for a moment in time,” Dudley said. “From that moment on, they are on the road to becoming a survivor. ... Our goal, in each and every case, is for each victim to become a survivor. Some even become an advocate for justice. Today we have such an honoree in Yolanda Angel Magana.”
Numerous dignitaries and court officials were on hand for the ceremony, which included presentation of Victim Service Awards to Dr. Kegan Allee and Alma Guerra.
Allee was recognized as an exemplary advocate for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking, Dudley said.
As an advocate support specialist in the UCSB Rape Prevention Education Program, “she is an example of the impact one person can have on a diverse community of individuals,” Dudley said.
Guerra was honored “for her extraordinary service, technical skills, and compassion” as a nurse examiner through the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), Dudley said.
SART is a countywide program providing care to victims of sexual assault in the most positive therapeutic environment possible.