Women still waiting for closure in mother’s death

Courtesy photo Aaron Quinones is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and arson in connection with the Dec. 20, 2008, death of Elizabeth McAdams.

Sharna Johnson

Time drags on for Katie Murphy as the second anniversary of her mother’s death approaches. She’s still waiting for justice for Elizabeth McAdams, 52, slain in Clovis, on Dec. 20, 2008.

“It’s been the longest two years of my life. It’s been on and off. It’s funny how the clock completely stops … We haven’t forgotten about her,” Murphy said.

“My sister and I will start to get some peace and closure until we get a phone call. (And) this time of the year we don’t even want to put up Christmas trees in our houses. I didn’t get to say good-bye, and he’s still sitting in jail.”

Prosecution in the case has been at a stand-still while, under court order, state mental health professionals worked to treat McAdams’ accused killer, Aaron Quinones, to make him competent to stand trial.

Quinones — charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and arson — was found competent Nov. 3, by District Judge Stephen Quinn.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 4 and District Attorney Matt Chandler said he expects to have a date for trial by spring.

Chandler said it can be very difficult for victims’ families as they wait for the wheels of justice to turn.

“The old saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is certainly true. Victims’ families certainly want and deserve closure,” he said.

“Any time a case goes into forensic status it can cause delays, but they’re not unnecessary delays … it’s certainly a procedure that is necessary to make sure the defendant understands the procedures that are ongoing, and in this particular case the court has ruled the defendant is competent to stand trial so now we can move forward to resolution.”

At an Oct. 4 competency hearing, defense experts testified Quinones suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), brought on by trauma in his childhood, including witnessing his father trying to make his mother to shoot his father, records show.

He also suffered abuse and was exposed to violence throughout his childhood, causing trauma, according to records.

Quinones became disruptive during the hearing while the event between his parents was discussed, and had to be removed from the courtroom. A clinical psychologist who evaluated him for the defense testified Quinones’ courtroom outburst was an example of the effects of PTSD.

Quinn, however, stated in his decision: “It appears Mr. Quinones understands the seriousness of the charges and has decided not to talk with anyone. His symptoms can be controlled with medication and he should be administered his medications precisely as prescribed.

“Further,” Quinn said, “his council should be provided frequent access to Mr. Quinones in the event he decides to confer with them.”

Police have said Quinones, who is accused of bludgeoning McAdams and cutting her throat, was looking for his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Miller, at McAdams’ home.

Murphy said Miller was a coworker her mother had taken into her home to help her break away from an abusive relationship with Quinones.

According to police, Miller said Quinones found out she was staying with McAdams. Miller told police she had started staying elsewhere off and on out of fear.

On the night of the killing, Miller told police she arrived at the house after 9 p.m. and, not wanting to wake McAdams, stayed somewhere else.

Police believe Quinones gained entry to the home, possibly through a back door, and killed McAdams.

Small fires started in the house alerted neighbors in the early morning hours and fire fighters discovered McAdams’ body in a rear room of the house. Police believe Quinones started the fires in an attempt to cover up the killing.

Murphy, who lives in Arizona, said she and her sister have followed the court proceedings and stayed in touch with prosecutors and detectives.

She said they live for the day they can sit in a courtroom and hear the full story of what led to their mother’s death so maybe they can finally understand why and how she was taken from them.

“The nightmares will never end. I wake up screaming in the middle of the night or crying, they’ll never end. We just have this picture of what we think happened,” she said.

“This is something that even a support group doesn’t help with; our friends get tired of hearing about it,” said Murphy. “I feel like things should have gone faster. I feel like we should have had answers already, but we don’t.

“This murder has become our whole life.”