Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 5.14.2014

A Mother Who Won’t Be Denied Truth and Justice

In the wake of horrible tragedy, solace is often found in knowing that the truth will be sought, and justice will be delivered.

For the last 15 years, Jessica Lenahan, who lost her three daughters in a domestic violence incident, has been denied the truth about what really happened to her children and, therefore, the justice that she and all victims rightly deserve.

In June 1999, Rebecca, Katheryn, and Leslie Gonzales were kidnapped by their father, Simon Gonzales, and discovered dead in his vehicle after a shootout with law enforcement at the Castle Rock, Colorado, police station. For nearly 10 hours beforehand, Jessica repeatedly called the police to tell them her children were in danger, but they refused to enforce the restraining order against her estranged husband.

While law enforcement concluded that Simon had killed the girls before arriving at the police station, a proper investigation into the circumstances of the girls’ deaths was never completed. To this day, Jessica doesn’t know who killed her children: her estranged husband, the police, or someone else. Law enforcement’s failure to investigate the girls’ deaths not only leaves Jessica and her family in an unimaginable cloud of uncertainty, but it casts doubt in the minds of all citizens as to how such critical questions can fall through the cracks unanswered.

Through the years, despite the immense personal loss that she suffered and the unacceptable lack of answers provided to her by the state of Colorado, Jessica has become a renowned advocate for the rights of domestic violence victims.

In 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a landmark decisionin her case that calls on federal, state, and local governments to strengthen their responses to domestic violence in the United States, while specifically calling for an investigation into the circumstances of Jessica’s case. With the support of the University of Miami Law School Human Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, and the ACLU, Jessica is now seeking to implement the commission’s decision.

Last week, Jessica’s personal courage and 15 years of advocacy were recognized, as the Colorado legislature honored her with a formal tribute on the last day of the legislative session.

While the legislature’s recognition was certainly earned, what Jessica deserves is truth and justice. That’s why the ACLU of Colorado is calling for a renewed commitment from the state to provide the answers it failed to seek in 1999. It is critical for society to have confidence in law enforcement to conduct thorough and proper investigations, each and every time the need arises. The state of Colorado has the opportunity and the responsibility to determine the exact sequence of events which led to the deaths of Rebecca, Katheryn, and Leslie Gonzales.

We call on Colorado to finally conduct the investigation Jessica, her family, and the people of Colorado all deserve.



  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.