Just like the old adage warns, for most couples, married life is a series of hills and valleys. For Milwaukee’s Carolina Soza-Gonzales, the wife of a man who is currently on death row, the valleys dip a little deeper.
In 1994, Soza-Gonzales’ husband, Gabriel Gonzales, was sentenced to die by lethal injection for a crime committed in Texas. Soza-Gonzales believes her husband -- -- who is currently an inmate at the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio -- is innocent, and she works tirelessly on his case with the dream of getting him resentenced.
"There is no evidence placing Gabriel at the scene of the crime," she says. "Today we know ... that important evidence was hidden by the prosecution. This evidence would have helped Gabriel tremendously."
A fundraiser for the Gonzales family will take place at The National, 839 W. National Ave., on Friday, May 15, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Gonzales was convicted of a "pawn shop robbery gone wrong" which resulted in the death of an employee, Louella Hilton, who tried to escape during the burglary. Soza-Gonzales says there is no evidence that places Gonzales at the scene of the crime, nor did authorities ever find the weapon that killed Hilton.
Gonzales is waiting for a resentencing hearing where he could be sentenced to life in prison instead of death.
"After the resentencing, we will have one calendar year to appeal for a new trial, and that is really what we are going for," says Soza-Gonzales. "We know that if we have a new trial Gabriel will be exonerated because there is no real evidence against him."
Soza-Gonzales, who worked for numerous social service agencies, became aware of Gonzales while researching the death penalty. During her research, she came across an inmates-run organization that attempts to raise community awareness about the hardships of Texas’ death row.
"I went through the Web site carefully and I saw Gabriel," says Soza-Gonzales. "I read his poetry and articles, and I was so impressed about his political and spiritual views and I decided to write him to extend my solidarity."
Gonzales responded to Soza-Gonzales’ letter with a 20-page poem -- what Soza-Gonzales refers to as a "manifesto" -- and she was deeply moved by his words, feeling instantly connected to the man.
"When I first met him I thought he was a great person in a horrible situation," says Soza-Gonzales. "Even though he was not the first death row inmate I met, he was the only one that touched me since day one."
Eventually, the couple fell in love and got married even though they speak on the phone only once a month. Soza-Gonzales was able to visit her husband in February.
Soza-Gonzales says Gonzales grew up in a poor, abusive environment and that he has changed dramatically in the past 14 years.
"I am a Latino father of three and a husband to a wife who I love more than anything," writes Gabriel Gonzales on his Web site. "I spend most of my time writing, reading and seeking to extend myself beyond the limitations of this cruel and unusual confinement of isolation, sensory deprivation and physical and psychological abuse."
Soza-Gonzales believes her husband's art and poetry reflect his transformation and that the truth will eventually reunite her with her husband.
"Gabriel is a symbol to me that change is possible," says Soza-Gonzales. "Gabriel is my hero."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.