Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 5:43 pm | Fair 72º


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Santa Maria Vigil To Remember Murder Victim Marilyn Pharis

A vigil is planned Friday night in Santa Maria to remember the life of Marilyn Pharis.

A vigil Friday night will remember the life of Marilyn Pharis, the Santa Maria woman who died eight days after she was brutally attacked in her home.

The vigil, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Santa Maria City Hall courtyard, was announced Tuesday by one of two speakers who told the City Council that violence, not immigration, is at the root of the crime.

"Her life mattered. She mattered," said Ann McCarty, associate director of the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center. "What matters is that as a community we address the issues of violence."

McCarty added, “We will remember Marilyn for the peaceful way she lived her passionate life."

Pharis was sexually assaulted, strangled and beaten with a hammer July 24 in her home in the 900 block of North Dejoy Street by two men, one of whom is an undocumented immigrant with an arrest record.

She died Aug. 1 at the hospital. 

The 64-year-old woman, who spent four years in the Air Force, has worked at Vandenberg Air Force Base in a satellite tracking facility for four decades.

Two men arrested in connection with the crime face murder and other charges.

McCarty praised the Santa Maria Police Department's compassionate handling of the case and quick apprehension of the suspects, urging people to support law enforcement agencies and stop blaming anyone but the two men accused of committing the attack.

“Violence in our community must end,” McCarty said. “Each person in this community needs to take a step back and examine what the real issue is here. It’s not immigration. It’s not status. It’s not race. It is violence.”

On the same day, statistically speaking, nine other women were raped, crimes that were not necessarily reported to police and didn’t attract national media, McCarty said. 

“Sadly this case has garnered national attention because Marilyn Pharis’ life has been tossed around like a political football,” she said. “The North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center finds this incredibly disturbing because many groups are using Marilyn’s life as a way to advance an agenda.”

The attack has drawn national media attention to Santa Maria, and renewed allegations the city harbors undocumented immigrants, prompting Mayor Alice Patino to speak out about the criticism lobbed at the city.

“We do not fit the definition of a sanctuary city,” Patino said, later reading the definition of a sanctuary city.

Anger about the crime is misdirected and taking away from what should be the real focus, McCarty said, adding rape is about power and control. The community should be shouting “No more," she added, using the theme of the organization's public service announcement.

“Would our conversations be different if the person who had raped her had been Asian or Native American or African-American or Anglo? Think that for a moment,” McCarty said

Maricela Morales, executive director of CAUSE, called on the council to create a local task force to end male violence against women. 

“If you are a women, if you have a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, if women matter at all, then a task force to end male violence against women is a beginning,” Morales said. “Any other focus is moral outrage and fear at best 

An American Psychological Association Task Force noted that the common factor in violence against women is “unfortunately gender issue — men, rich men, poor men, men of color, white men, citizen men, non-citizen men, married men, single men."

“It’s men,” Morales said. “It is sad, frightening and overwhelming to face the fact that the common denominator in violence against women is that perpetrators are male and they are overwhelmingly men we know and often know intimately.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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