ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Mary Hawkes made the most of her time in Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center – she read books, studied for her GED and wrote stories about her life growing up in Los Lunas, parents dying when she was young and being adopted.
But one of her favorite things to do was to go to music class with teacher Carolina Acuña-Olvera, who would become a mentor and mother figure after she was released from the detention center.
“I saw this light in her, and I saw her musical abilities,” Acuña-Olvera said in an interview Monday. “It was a light that you don’t see in a lot of the kids there. I saw even though she was incarcerated she was very positive, she had a positive outlook, as much as she had been through already.”
She would orchestrate musical pieces using musical software and write lyrics to them, said Acuña-Olvera, who mentored a few other girls from the detention center.
Hawkes, 19, was shot and killed by police Monday after police say she was a suspect in an auto theft investigation and pulled a gun on an officer.
She was charged in 2011 as a juvenile with attempted criminal sexual contact of a child under 13, and was convicted of a lesser battery offense and sentenced to two years of probation, according to court records.
In 2009 she was charged with abuse or possession of glue or aerosol spray, and assault, threat or menacing conduct. She pleaded no contest to the assault charge.
As an adult, she pleaded guilty to public drinking and offenses by minors outside a Downtown bar in April of last year, according to the criminal complaint. Five days after that arrest, she was charged with shoplifting at Sears, according to a criminal complaint. Those charges were later dismissed, according to court records.
She lived in transitional housing in the International District when she was released from the detention center, and worked odd jobs – including stints with Petco, Sonic, and Zacatecas in Nob Hill. She lived on and off with Acuña-Olvera, sometimes breaking into cars to find a safe place to sleep, Acuña-Olvera said. She said Hawkes didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in shelters because she was a young woman.
“This last year I think she struggled a bit with trying to figure the world out,” Acuña-Olvera said. “She was very articulate and inquisitive and curious about the bigger world.”
Acuña-Olvera said Hawkes had tried various drugs but wasn’t addicted, and said she had never seen her with a gun. Hawkes carried a small knife for protection, Acuña-Olvera said.
“If she was addicted to anything it was mandarin orange chicken at Panda Express,” Acuña-Olvera said.
Hawkes had worked with horses in Corrales while she was incarcerated, and owned dogs as well as a small reptile. Acuña-Olvera said Hawkes would often feed her animals before feeding herself when necessary, and wanted to work with them in the future.
“She was her best spiritually when she was with animals,” Acuña-Olvera said. “She deeply cared for others, she would put others in front of her all the time, and sometimes that was a flaw for her.”
She was kicked out of her apartment because she let people whom she knew were in need crash there, Acuña-Olvera said.
Hawkes and her friends would sleep in “cars, vacant homes, places where cops won’t frequent very much,” Acuña-Olvera said. “The system is so flawed, they have to make choices to survive. I know when she didn’t eat, I knew when she was breaking into a car to sleep in.”
She said she heard about Hawkes’ death Monday from another woman who had been incarcerated with Hawkes.
“I am still going in and out of crying and disbelief,” Acuña-Olvera said. “I want to honor her great life. That’s the story I want to keep talking about.”