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Suddenly, They Were Gone

CINDY PALACIOS VALLADARES

She dreamed of

For the record:

12:00 a.m. July 19, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 19, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Santa Monica victims -- A profile in Friday’s section A of Lynne Weaver, a victim in the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market crash, misspelled Allie Roverud’s first name as Ellie.

being a princess

Seeing the car speeding through the crowd at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, Veronica Reza did what any mother would do. With one arm, she clasped the stroller holding her 8-month-old son, Christopher. With the other, she tugged frantically on the arm of her 3-year-old daughter, Cindy.

But before Reza could reel in her daughter, the car’s bumper caught the little girl and swept her away.

“I thought it was a bomb,” Reza said Thursday. “I saw boxes flying. People were screaming. I tried to pull her toward me. A homeless woman got in the way. It happened in an instant -- like that!”

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As she spoke, she held out an arm and tugged at empty air.

“If I would have pulled her by just a little more,” she said, “I would have saved her.”

Reza hadn’t gone to the market for food. She had traveled 45 minutes by bus so her children could see their dad, Rafael Godoy Palacios, who works two jobs nearby, at a Chinese restaurant and a movie theater.

Their trip Wednesday was to have been a family adventure, far from their cramped apartment in Koreatown.

Sometime before 2 p.m., Veronica, 26, heard the screams of shoppers and instinctively clung to her infant. She tried to pull Cindy closer.

“She wanted to save her little girl,” said Jose Reza, Veronica’s brother. “She wanted to move her, but the car went too fast.”

Cindy Palacios Valladares, one of Wednesday’s youngest victims, was a bubbly child with a round face, a pouty nose and short, dark, curly hair. She loved dolls and teddy bears and playing tag. She liked watching TV shows about animals. With a neighbor’s daughter, she would pretend to be a princess, imagining a life beyond the one-room apartment she shared with her mother, father and baby brother.

Veronica’s Reza’s cousin, Miguel Reza, used to take Cindy to the park. She’d giggle on the swings and trot to the slides, the 16-year-old recalled.

“For her age, she had a remarkable vocabulary,” said Carlos Hernandez, a neighbor who had a pet iguana that Cindy liked to visit. “She was very well-spoken, as though she was a little adult. But she was playful like a child.”

Sometimes Cindy would visit the apartment of neighbor Jose Recinos, who has a 3-year-old daughter and two parakeets that delighted Cindy.

Wednesday night, Recinos took a case of cold sodas to Cindy’s parents, hoping to bring a small measure of relief to the family as they grieved in the stifling heat.

He said Cindy’s father, Rafael, 31, told him he wasn’t bitter. “He did not blame the old man, because he knew he did not mean to do it,” Recinos said.

Last Thursday, Cindy had celebrated her third birthday at the home of her grandfather, Lucio Reza, in Elysian Park.

“I did everything for this girl. I loved her. She was my joy,” the grandfather said.

He said he roasted a pig for the party and hung a star-shaped pinata. Most of the relatives had given clothes to Cindy, mindful of her family’s modest income.

“Where do we get the money for the burial?” asked Lucio Reza, tears flooding his eyes.

“She was my joy. She was my treasure,” he said, weeping. “For me, happiness has ended.”

GLORIA GONZALEZ

‘She did everything

for her children’

Gloria Gonzalez, 32, could have walked to the grocery story four blocks from her Venice home. But the soft-spoken Mexican immigrant wanted organic vegetables for her 10-year-old son, David, and 3-year-old daughter, Joseline. So on Wednesdays, she took a 17-minute ride on the No. 3 bus and stepped off at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.

“She did everything for her children,” sister-in-law Maria Martinez said in Spanish in the family’s tidy living room. “She adored them.”

On Thursday, her husband, Gil Martinez, 30, clutched a photo of himself and his wife, frozen in smiles at a distant party. Joseline sat on his lap, David at his side.

Gil and Gloria met as teenagers in San Bartolo Coyotepec, a town known for its pottery artisans in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Like so many other immigrants, they came north 15 years ago in search of a better life. They settled in one of Venice’s rougher neighborhoods, but five years ago they moved to the quiet, tree-lined street where eight family members shared a three-bedroom home.

Both worked in restaurants -- Gil cooking at Cafe Laurent in Culver City, Gloria washing and cleaning at El Cholo in Santa Monica.

Family members, who had been watching the news on TV Wednesday afternoon, said they suspected something might be wrong when they received a call from Joseline’s preschool: Gloria had not come by to pick up her daughter.

Martinez called his boss, Rayn Patzkozky. “He was so scared,” Patzkozky recalled. “They’d been married for 15 years and this was the first time she’d done such a thing, failed to pick up her daughter.”

The family set off on a frantic seven hours of searching. They checked four hospitals, to no avail.

At 11 p.m., they received a call from the coroner’s office.

“They had my wife,” Martinez said as tears streamed down his face. “I never thought this would happen. Santa Monica is a very safe city.”

Family members would like to bury Gloria in Oaxaca.

“It’s really hard,” said sister-in-law Maria Martinez. “She was here yesterday morning. Now she’s not coming back.”

LYNNE WEAVER

A passion for family

and the environment

Lynne Weaver was still an idealist at 47. She recycled so much that she threw out next to nothing. She drove a gasoline-electric hybrid car. She arrived at her job at 7 a.m., and as chief operating officer for the After School All Stars Foundation, she worked the phone, prying grant money from donors and planning events for the foundation created by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

She often took co-workers to shop at the farmers market during lunch, pulling a wagon for her purchases.

Wednesday was a hectic day, but she didn’t want to skip the chance to buy fresh ingredients for her husband, Rob, an accomplished cook.

Friends and colleagues said Weaver was generous with her time, whether it involved feeding the homeless or throwing tea parties for children in her neighborhood.

“She didn’t have a pessimistic bone in her body,” said co-worker Marlenia Myers. “It didn’t matter how people acted. She would just say: ‘That’s OK. Kill them with kindness.’ ”

Weaver’s respect for the environment was a family tradition. Her father-in-law, actor and longtime conservationist Dennis Weaver, built a house of recycled material in Colorado.

But Weaver’s greatest passion was her husband and their daughter, Jennifer, who graduated from high school this year.

“I just can’t talk right now,” said Rob Weaver on Thursday. “It’s too hard.”

Among those offering telephoned condolences were U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who met with Weaver last month at a Washington summit on after-school programs that Weaver organized.

Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver called from France.

Friends, many in tears, brought flowers and cards to the couple’s Woodland Hills home. Her family was at a second home in Malibu on Thursday.

“I can just see her at the market with her recycled bag, getting her fruit -- that’s Lynne. It makes me smile,” said Sue Roverud, who then broke into sobs. Roverud, who has lived two doors from the Weavers for 20 years, called her friend a “second mother” to her twin 9-year-old daughters.

One of them, Ellie Roverud, was asked what she remembers of Weaver.

“She said you should always appreciate every day,” Ellie said.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Weaver is survived by her mother, June DeMaria, and several brothers and sisters.

LEROY LATTIER

Cheerfulness

masked his struggle

With his trademark fishing hat perched on his head, Leroy Lattier often came to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market to earn a few dollars sweeping up after vendors and shoppers had gone.

Lattier, 55, left his home in Louisiana about a year ago and came to Santa Monica seeking medical treatment for diabetes. Doctors in Shreveport wanted to amputate his legs, family members said, but Lattier thought superior medical care in California could save his limbs.

He figured it was worth it even if it meant living on the streets.

On Wednesday afternoon, as Lattier stood on Arizona Avenue near the market entrance, he was among the first victims to be struck.

“He was dead when we got to him,” said Jerry Johnson, another homeless man who ran to Lattier’s aid.

It was 24 hours before authorities were able to notify his family in Shreveport.

“Lord have mercy!” his mother, Bertha, wailed Thursday a few minutes after receiving the news. Then she put down the phone and collapsed into sobs.

Though he was sometimes homeless, Lattier called his mother several times a week from his cell phone and sent her money when he could.

Pat Hendricks, his case manager at Turning Point, a transitional housing facility in Santa Monica, said residents are required to set aside some of their income. But Lattier came to her around Thanksgiving and Christmas begging for an exception.

“ ‘I have to send money to my momma,’ ” Hendricks recalled him saying.

Lattier loved going to movies on the Third Street Promenade and sitting on the benches and engaging passersby in conversation.

“He had a real Southern charm,” Hendricks said. “He could talk to anyone.”

He also followed football, particularly the Chicago Bears, where his nephew, Ken Anderson, played for a few years, thrilling his proud uncle, family members said.

“He was a people pleaser,” said Lattier’s sister, Delores, 52. “He would do whatever he could do to help someone.”

Relatives said the Shreveport native worked for years as a welder before diabetes forced him to quit.

In Santa Monica, Lattier worked odd jobs -- from sweeping the farmers market to gathering petitions for political campaigns. He relied on several shelters and homeless services programs along with some disability income.

Shelter workers and other homeless people mourned Lattier on Thursday as a cheerful friend with a perpetual smile and an enviable work ethic.

“He was such a joy,” said Virgil Hill, director of Turning Point. Lattier moved in last August and had moved out in April. Social workers said he moved into an apartment in West Los Angeles, although they did not know if he had stayed.

“He was always cracking jokes,” Hill said. “Whatever he said, he would end it with a joke.”

Lattier’s legs sometimes troubled him so much he used crutches to get around, but he never let it slow him down.

“He just couldn’t be stilled,” said Hendricks. “He was always out trying to better himself Can you imagine a man on crutches and trying to sweep? That’s Leroy.”

Lattier’s mother said she last spoke with her son on Saturday. He ended the conversation the way he always did, she recalled, saying he loved her.

“I am going to get my child home,” she said Thursday. “And go from there.”

MOVSHA HOFFMAN

He escaped the

horrors of Stalin

Movsha Hoffman, 78, fled Lithuania when it was ruled by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, and settled in Santa Monica. Around the two-story apartment building in a Russian-Jewish enclave, he was known as Michael, and had a reputation for puttering around among his plants and fixing other residents’ problems.

“He was very communicative and, if someone was in trouble, he was always the first to help,” said Peter Kogut, 79, a neighbor who spoke Thursday through an interpreter.

“He liked to fix anything that was busted. He was a handyman and had a lot of tools,” said Sam Fortenbaugh, a long-time resident of the building.

Fortenbaugh said he had a long habit of locking himself out of the apartment and pointed to a little hole that Hoffman had made in the screen door so Fortenbaugh could insert a finger and unlock the door.

The Hoffmans had moved away within the last two years, residents said. Family members could not be contacted.

Landlord Rachel Sene, 70, recalled the couple as “very loving.”

“They were one of the best tenants. I was totally happy with them,” Sene said. “They were almost like extended family. They swept outside of the building every morning, both of them. We used to say ‘Thank you, thank you.’ ”

Neighbors recalled Hoffman as a patriot who relished his adopted close-knit community of Russian Jews, attending synagogue regularly.

“Because they lived under Stalin, they wanted to be here,” said Helene Rosenthal, a friend who lived two doors from the Hoffmans. “They were very patriotic. They weren’t from here, but they loved this country.”

It was Rosenthal who saw the familiar face of a gray-haired man on Thursday’s 5 o'clock news. She said, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I was hoping it was someone else. That’s him. I feel so bad for Esther. Oh, God! That was Michael.’ “Esther Hoffman was listed in serious condition Thursday at Santa Monica UCLA Hospital. “I don’t think she could be interviewed today,” said hospital spokesman Ted Braun.

MOLOK GHOULIAN NABATIAN

BRANDON ESFAHANI DAVIDI

A grandmother’s

weekly ritual

It was a weekly ritual for Molok Ghoulian Nabatian, an excursion to the Wednesday farmers market to carefully select fruits and vegetables for the Friday night Sabbath.

This time, the Iranian American grandmother was wheeling her 7-month-old grandson while her daughter walked across the street to get better reception on her cell phone. Seconds later, the runaway Buick mowed both of them down.

As family members gathered Thursday afternoon in West Los Angeles to mourn the loss of the Tehran-born 63-year-old, they were devastated by more tragic news: The grandson, Brandon Esfahani Davidi, had died from head injuries at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital.

“Losing two people. Oh, my God!” said Fred Shoshani, a family friend . “You go to a market and you die.”

The double tragedy ended a grueling 24 hours for the tight-knit family, which had spent most of the previous afternoon and evening in a search for the beloved grandmother. Police refused to let them cross yellow perimeter tape and hospitals had nothing to offer.

They learned from the coroner after midnight that Nabatian had died.

A steady stream of relatives and friends descended Thursday on the West Los Angeles apartment that Nabatian had shared with her husband, Houshang Nabatian, a jeweler. Many were dressed in black from head to toe, embracing each other with sobs and wails.

They recalled a cheerful, gentle matriarch who emigrated from Tehran in the 1980s to be closer to her children.

“She was the one everyone went to, to have her point of view. She has a very conciliatory and mending personality,” said Khosrow Ahdoot, a son-in-law.

“She made problems not so big,” Ahdoot said. “Everyone consulted her.”

An avid reader with a sharp mind and a hunger for information, Nabatian relished dishing out comforting advice nearly as much as the family’s comfort food: Persian stews and spicy beef kabobs.

“She was the best mother-in-law you could have,” said Ellie Younani, who is married to Nabatian’s only son, Ben Rahbarpour.

It was the joy of cooking that brought her to the outdoor market with her grandson and the baby’s mother, Janet Davidi, a daughter who lives nearby.

In addition to her husband, son, and Davidi, she is survived by three other daughters, Parvaneh Abrishamian of New York, Pouran Ahdoot of Washington and Jaklin Zar of Los Angeles. She is also survived by 10 grandchildren.

Brandon, the 11th grandchild, was the son of Janet and Shahriar Davidi of Los Angeles.

A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Eden Memorial Park, 11500 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills.

KEVIN McCARTHY

DIANA GONG McCARTHY

Opportunities had

brought them West

In mid-life, filmmaker Kevin McCarthy and his wife, an interior designer, took a chance. They ditched Port Washington, N.Y., for Los Angeles, where Kevin planned to finish his first full-length feature film.

The couple settled in Venice seven months ago. Diana Gong McCarthy, 41, a classical pianist, singer and designer who had created interior looks for some of New York’s largest corporations, was the more practical of the two.

Diana’s father, a chef in New York’s Chinatown, was visiting and planning a special meal Wednesday night. They were shopping for fresh greens when the Buick appeared out of nowhere. Diana’s father was among the injured and was hospitalized Wednesday night.

He learned Thursday that his daughter and son-in-law had been killed.

Diana had a fine arts degree from the New York Institute of Technology and worked more than 15 years as a project manager for architectural firms, banks and furniture designers. She had hoped to start a feng shui consulting business, but had taken part-time work at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Kevin McCarthy, 50, took odd jobs and finished his film two weeks ago, according to actor and longtime friend Francesco Mazzini.

Titled “The Rouge Shoes,” the self-financed black-and-white feature owed as much to Federico Fellini as Buster Keaton, said Mazzini, who stars in the film.

Slight and bespectacled, Kevin had a degree in literature and a thousand ideas, Mazzini said. He spoke at length about books, art and politics.

“Everything that came out of his mouth was like a little poem,” Mazzini said.

It was partly his poetry that attracted Diana, who was a manager at a Chase Manhattan bank branch when they met. The differences in their job status made a romance seem improbable. “He charmed her somehow with his goofiness,” Mazzini said.

The decision to come to Los Angeles was not easy for the couple, recalled Ilaan Egeland, Mazzini’s girlfriend. They knew they were older than most people starting out in the capital of the movie industry.

“I think together they forged the courage to do something new that they wouldn’t have done individually,” she said.

Diana took to her Sunday job welcoming visitors at the Skirball Center, where Egeland also works. Her poise, professional experience and education made her “one of these miracle people who come along once in a while for a nonprofit cultural institution,” said Lori Starr, the center’s senior vice president. “She was warm, kind, funny.”

With Kevin’s film project finished, it was a period of anticipation for the couple when they visited the farmers market on Wednesday. Mazzini said McCarthy had given him a copy of the finished film. But they had not yet watched it together. They were waiting for a chance to see it on a big screen.

On Thursday, Mazzini said he had a hard time imagining his friend’s life ending at a farmers market.

Mazzini said McCarthy probably hadn’t eaten a vegetable in years. He was a pizza kind of guy, he said.

*

This article was reported by Times staff writers Daniel Hernandez, Jennifer Mena, Nora Zamichow, Robert J. Lopez, Connie Stewart, Scott Glover, Joel Rubin, Megan Garvey, Jessica Garrison, Carla Hall, Allison Hoffman, Rich Connell, Richard Fausset, Steve Hymon and Li Fellers. It was written by Geoffrey Mohan.


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