‘A complete innocent’
Slain mother, children remembered at rally, vigil
“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.
RIGHT: Family members show a photo of Aracely Hoffman and her daughter, Clara.
A family member shows a photo of John “Junior” Hoffman.