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Anniversary of death brings pain

The widow of Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot struggles to cope

As the one-year anniversary marking her husband's death nears, Paula Villacis Lopez says the headaches have returned, as have the restless nights of bad dreams and dark thoughts about her life without him.

Villacis has begun volunteering at her church in Mani, a remote village in the Mexican state of Yucatan, to distract herself from reliving the death of her husband, Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot. Mejia, a 29-year-old Mexican national, was fatally shot by a Portland police officer in a psychiatric hospital April 1, 2001.

On Sunday, in addition to celebrating Easter, Villacis and her relatives will lay fresh flowers on Mejia's grave and remember him over a shared meal of a traditional stew called el puchero. The day after, they will attend a Mass at San Miguel Arcangel, the church where she met Mejia, married him and mourned his death.

The way Mejia died came as a shock to Villacis, relatives and friends because he was known as a tender, methodical man who went to church three times a week. He had come to Portland to earn enough money to build a home in Mani, start a business and treat his epilepsy.

Doctors who reviewed his death think that Mejia experienced an epileptic seizure after he boarded a Tri-Met bus on the morning of March 30, 2001. After a series of incidents, he was misdiagnosed and placed in the former BHC-Pacific Gateway Hospital in Sellwood.

In the year that has passed, Villacis has had to move out of the house that she and Mejia had been building together. The property on which the house was built belongs to her husband's parents.

She lives with her mother in a one-room house closer to the town center. She relies mainly on income earned from knitting and passes time working at the church.

'Being around people who are suffering more than I am has helped,' she said in a telephone interview.

Soon, Villacis should have access to a portion of money from a $750,000 settlement negotiated by attorneys for Mejia's estate with Gateway hospital and Providence Health System.

Villacis has experienced complications accessing $100,000 in cash and a monthly stipend of $1,080 from her bank. Linda Friedman Ramirez of Portland, an attorney for Mejia's estate, is expected to visit Villacis this week to remedy the situation.

The situation doesn't faze Villacis because she says she wouldn't even know what to do with such a large sum of money.

'I'm used to a life without luxury,' she said. 'I haven't been able to get to the money in the bank, but even if I could, I wouldn't have much use for it.'

Contact Cristine Gonzalez at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..