Tucson strangulation suspect: “You’re going to die today”

Tucson family fights plea deal saying Pima Co. Attorney’s Office rubber stamps cases
KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 10:40 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s a candid interview with a young Tucson woman who’s accusing her boyfriend of strangling her.

And now she and her family are trying to convince the Pima County Attorney’s Office not to reduce the felony charges against him.

They’ve argued the system isn’t doing enough to protect victims, which is putting lives in grave danger.

Strangulation is one of the most deadly forms of domestic violence.

In this case, the victim survived, but she still fears for her life.

An important note: We are not here to determine guilt or innocence. That’s up to a jury in a courtroom if it gets that far.

The point of this investigation is to examine what the family calls a breakdown in the criminal justice system that has the victim and her family making a “plea” for help.

“I stepped right in the door and he kicked me right in the back and I flew over there,” which started 12 minutes of pain and terror,” Gracie McDonough said.

McDonough said her boyfriend of four years, Angel Carmona Rodriquez, beat her in her bedroom while the son they had together watched and cried.

“He just started hitting me, like stomping on me with shoes on, hitting me in the face,” she said.

In another room, a surveillance camera picked up the sound.

It reveals her boyfriend didn’t let up, saying it was her fault he felt enraged.

He berates her, threatens her, at one point said, “You are going to die today.”

She had pleaded to him several times to let go.

“He ended up strangling me,” McDonough said, “and then kind of lifting me up and throwing me down.”

You can hear in the audio her struggle to breathe.

She believes it lasted about 10 seconds, maybe longer.

Health experts say unconsciousness can happen within seconds, death within minutes.

“Your life is literally flashing before your eyes, because everything’s going on in your head at once about what’s going to happen. And then I would pass out sometimes or he would stop,” McDonough said.

And, she said, it happened more than this one time.

“It happened probably like 50 times throughout our relationship, if not more,” she said.

“The audio was just excruciating to hear, knowing that that’s my daughter going through everything she’s going through.” said her mother, Sharon McDonough.

And the mother knew deep down this wasn’t the only time her daughter had been attacked.

She had seen warning signs: evidence of abuse from bruises to blood and flashes of temper.

“He broke her jaw, broke her cheekbone, broke her tooth, broke some ribs, lost of back injuries, black eyes, bruises. She has scars on her arms, scars on her legs, from there he was taking a hanger and just dug it into her skin,” Sharon McDonough said.

There are dozens of pictures depicting the violence.

Sharon McDonough had reported her suspicions to Tucson Police to get it on record.

But despite all the signs, her daughter would come up with excuses, saying it wasn’t Angel Rodriguez

“I couldn’t get her to really give me the information to do anything with it,” said the elder McDonough.

And Gracie McDonough explained why.

“He said, if I call my mom, ‘I’ll kill you and your whole family,’” she said.

Rodriguez had reportedly threatened to shoot Sharon McDonough, saying he’d walk up to her while gardening and pull the trigger. He also allegedly threatened to harm her sister and take away the child they share.

“And he would say, ‘It’ll never happen again. I’m so sorry. I want you to be able to trust me,’” McDonough said

And this cycle of domestic violence continued on, not for days or months, but for years.

“If my parents didn’t catch him, I didn’t know what I would do,” said McDonough said.

She finally called the Pima County Sheriff’s Department to report the attack.

“Although there was a sense of anxiety with her, I think there was also a sense of relief that finally she was going to get her story out and be done with it,” Sharon McDonough said of her daughter.

A Risk Assessment done on scene revealed a high risk of danger, meaning it could happen again.

Detectives found Rodriguez a weeks later and arrested him on two charges: kidnapping and Impeding breathing, which are both Class 4 felonies.

But he didn’t stay in jail long.

A judge released him right away with no bond. He’s out on his own recognizance under supervision of PreTrial Services.

And the Pima County Attorney’s Office has been negotiating a plea deal, which the family has been fighting.

Why would they offer a plea deal when they have all this evidence, a victim willing to testify, and a recorded confession from Angel?

We continue our investigation, A “Plea” for Help, on Nov. 10 at 10 p.m.