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Victim 'Lost It' After Son Died

By T.J. Wilham
Copyright © 2008 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    Vera "Tonie" Haskell "lost it" after her son was killed two years ago by a hit-and-run driver, her family says.
    She fell into a deep depression. Her alcoholism got worse. She talked about suicide.
    Haskell, 47, was killed Sunday by a hit-and-run driver nine blocks from where her son was killed.
    Police are looking into the possibility that the man who ran over her as she was lying in a parking lot was APD Sgt. Andrew Gallegos, who resembled the driver in a surveillance video.


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  •     Gallegos has been placed on paid administrative leave while police investigate his possible involvement.
        Police have said they didn't think the driver knew he had run over someone.
        "This is all so tragic," said Haskell's sister, Verni Yazza. "After her son died, she lost it. She was very depressed, and she was so depressed that she wanted to die sometimes."
        On July 28, 2006, Haskell's son, Jeremy, 25, was walking across Central near Grove about 10 p.m. when he was struck by a vehicle, according to police records.
        He was walking north across the street and had successfully passed through three of the four lanes on Central when he was struck in the right lane of westbound traffic.
        Witnesses told police a brown 1990s-model Nissan hit Jeremy Haskell.
        Police later charged Ian Beach, 18, with leaving the scene of an accident causing death. His case is pending in District Court.
        Yazza said her sister had a drinking problem before her son was killed. The problem got worse after her son's death.
        According to police records, Vera Haskell had been arrested five times on alcohol-related offenses.
        "She was an alcoholic. She had to have her vodka every day, but she was not a dirty drinker," Yazza said. "She was a quiet drinker. She always took it home to drink."
        Haskell was born in Red Valley, Ariz. She went to bakery school as a teenager and met her husband. The couple found jobs in Albuquerque and moved shortly afterward. They had two sons.
        Shortly after that, Vera Haskell started drinking. She and her husband eventually separated.
        Haskell stayed with friends for several years after the separation and made a living selling homemade jewelry.
        Friends and relatives knew she had a drinking problem but say Haskell was never abusive.
        She told friends after her son's death that she had thought about jumping out of a car while driving down the freeway.
        "We know her as a soft and passionate person at heart. Tonie made us laugh as she always joked about things and she also made us sad and brought tears, too," Yazza said. "She encouraged and (saw) the beauty in each of us and always expressed her love with no shame."
        Yazza said her sister went to bars in the area to sell jewelry and would stop at Sidewinders, a gay country-western bar, to sell jewelry to men to give to their boyfriends.
        She thinks that's why her sister was there Sunday.
        Another place Haskell routinely visited to sell jewelry was Route 66 Pony Works on Central SE, a car restoration business.
        "She was not a drunken bum," said owner Chris Hotchkiss, who knew Haskell for 20 years. "She cared about people. She wouldn't hurt a flea. She didn't deserve this.
        "Her son being killed like that, it tore her up."
        Sidewinders managers told the Journal that on Sunday, Haskell went to the front door, asked for "Juanita" and realized she was at the wrong bar. She was there for less than a minute and appeared "normal," managers said.
        About 10 minutes later, patrons came in reporting that a woman was leaning against a car and was unconscious. The two managers interviewed by the Journal said they didn't know whether anyone had gone out to check on her.
        Within 10 minutes, another group of patrons reported the same woman had been run over.
        Yazza said she didn't believe her sister was drunk.
        She said she talked to her sister about five hours before she was killed. Yazza said that Haskell was sober and that the two harassed each other, something they frequently did.
        "She has never been in a state where she is passed out or falls somewhere," Yazza said. "I don't see her that way. Not in a parking lot like that. Somebody hurt her. If she was drunk, she had people to call that would have helped her.
        "The last thing I said to her was 'Take care of yourself and stay off the streets.' ''