‘A com­plete in­no­cent’

Slain mother, chil­dren re­mem­bered at rally, vigil

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JOHN BURNETT

“She wanted to have a bet­ter life, to move ahead, to ad­vance her fam­ily, to im­prove their lot in life.”

A mother and her two chil­dren shot to death late last week in their Leilani Es­tates home were re­mem­bered Tues­day by fam­ily and friends at a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence rally and vigil that started on the Hilo Bayfront and moved to Aupuni Cen­ter.

Aracely Hoff­man was praised as a God­fear­ing wo­man who would do any­thing to pro­vide a bet­ter life for her chil­dren, Clara, 7, and John, 5, who was known as “Ju­nior.” Po­lice on Tues­day con­firmed the chil­dren were the ones whose bod­ies were found in the Moku Street home early Fri­day morn­ing.

The chil­dren’s 40-year-old mother, orig­i­nally from El Sal­vador, came to Hawaii 10 years ago, be­fore meet­ing, mar­ry­ing and hav­ing chil­dren with John Ali Hoff­man, who is ac­cused of their mur­ders.

“She wanted to have a bet­ter life, to move ahead, to ad­vance her fam­ily, to im­prove their lot in life,” said Reyna Ur­ru­ela Pineda, Aracely Hoff­man’s mother, through an in­ter­preter, Ramón Manuel Figueroa-Cen­teno, a fam­ily friend. “She was very fo­cused on her chil­dren and their fu­ture. She wanted Clara to go to col­lege. She was wor­ried for her son be­cause Ju­nior was

REYNA UR­RU­ELA PINEDA, about her daugh­ter, Aracely Hoff­man

a vic­tim of (rat) lung­worm dis­ease. But she was al­ways, as much as she could, as much as she was al­lowed, try­ing to im­prove the lot of their lives, in­clud­ing that of her hus­band.”

The slain wo­man’s brother, Tito Mon­roy Ur­ru­ela, said his sis­ter’s pur­pose “was to al­ways to help.”

“She worked to help the fam­ily,” he said, par­tially in Span­ish and par­tially in English. “She worked like the men work, do­ing men’s kind of jobs. She had no vices. She never had an ill word for any­body. She was con­cerned about her whole fam­ily, in­clud­ing her hus­band, all the time.

“She was a com­plete in­no­cent.”

Rose Bautista, a county im­mi­gra­tion lawyer, knew Aracely Hoff­man be­fore she was mar­ried in 2008, and had tried, with­out suc­cess, to gain per­ma­nent alien res­i­dent sta­tus for the wo­man.

“She was the sweet­est, sweet­est per­son, al­ways with a smile. And that’s the sad thing. Be­cause I knew her sit­u­a­tion, I knew her pain, but she hid it so well. She had this re­ally pleas­ant smile, but be­cause I could see through that, it was more of a painful smile.”

Of Aracely Hoff­man’s im­mi­gra­tion dif­fi­cul­ties, Bautista said, “We did what we could for her but it was a steep hill to climb.”

Bautista also at­tended Mass with the wo­man and her chil­dren at Malia Puka O Kalani Catholic Church.

“She would come with the chil­dren, never with him,” Bautista said. “What I’ve ob­served was she felt com­fort­able there be­cause there is a num­ber of (Span­ish) speak­ing parish­ioners. … She was nice, smil­ing al­ways car­ing for her chil­dren.”

Bautista said Clara Hoff­man was al­ways smil­ing and en­joyed help­ing Bautista, who con­ducted a monthly chil­dren’s Mass at the Keaukaha church. She said rat lung­worm dis­ease had made Ju­nior Hoff­man hy­per­ac­tive.

“He had a very short at­ten­tion span. So he would run to the al­tar, grab the mic and scream into the mic,” she re­called.

Bautista de­scribed both chil­dren as “just happy, re­ally good kids.”

The state Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion provided the Tri­bune-Her­ald a let­ter sent Mon­day by Chad Keone Farias, Ka‘uKeaau-Pa­hoa com­plex area su­per­in­ten­dent, to all par­ents and guardians of the com­plex area’s pub­lic schools, about the deaths of the chil­dren.

“This case has deeply af­fected our school com­mu­ni­ties and the com­mu­nity-at-large,” Farias wrote, and added the schools have a cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion team “com­prised of trained pro­fes­sion­als, coun­selors and Be­hav­ioral Health Spe­cial­ists avail­able to help with the needs of stu­dents and school per­son­nel.”

Figueroa-Cen­teno, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of math­e­mat­ics at the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo, be­friended Aracely Hoff­man and her chil­dren at the small Catholic par­ish. He de­scribed her as “a wo­man of abid­ing faith” and said she came to church even though she “wouldn’t un­der­stand a word that was said.”

“When you hear that un­doc­u­mented peo­ple will do the jobs we won’t do, she would do the jobs that un­doc­u­mented peo­ple won’t do,” Figueroa-Cen­teno said. “And she would work in a mill with men much big­ger than her. … She was such a tiny, lit­tle wo­man. She some­times had to sneak out to be able to work … to clean houses, when she could.

“She told me that for her chil­dren — and the word in Span­ish is ‘mendigo,’ which trans­lates lit­er­ally to ‘men­di­cant,’ but it means a beg­gar on the street. She said, ‘For my chil­dren, I will be a beg­gar on the street.’ That is a quote from her.”

Figueroa-Cen­teno said John Ali Hoff­man, who is await­ing a court-or­dered men­tal eval­u­a­tion, tried to keep his wife iso­lated, not al­low­ing her to have friends or to take classes to learn English.

“Church was her dire act of de­fi­ance,” he said.

Figueroa-Cen­teno be­came emo­tional re­count­ing his “last mem­ory of Clara.”

“In our church, usu­ally there’s no boys on Sun­days, there’s only girls. Ju­nior was out­side be­cause he’s hy­per,” he said. “But the lit­tle girls, in­clud­ing my daugh­ter and Clara, 10 lit­tle girls … they were do­ing the hula to The Lord’s Prayer.”

ABOVE: Aracely Hoff­man’s brother, Tito Mon­roy Ur­ru­ela, and mother, Reyna Ur­ru­ela Pineda, who is wip­ing away tears, were present dur­ing a vigil Tues­day for the slain wo­man and her two chil­dren, Clara, 7, and John, 5.

Pho­tos by HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

RIGHT: Fam­ily mem­bers show a photo of Aracely Hoff­man and her daugh­ter, Clara.

A fam­ily mem­ber shows a photo of John “Ju­nior” Hoff­man.

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