Fatal Stabbing Called a Rare Act by Girls
A back-alley knifing of a teen in Anaheim, in which two girls are held, highlights differences between the sexes in youth violence.
By Jennifer Mena and Mai Tran, Times Staff Writers
The fatal back-alley stabbing of a teenage girl in Anaheim over the weekend was a rare outburst of extreme violence among girls, apparently fueled by motives not often found in young men, witnesses and experts say.
"Boys fight for instrumental reasons, such as money. Girls tend to fight for emotional reasons," said Meda Chesney-Lind, a women's studies professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who has written several books on women and violence.
Homicide detectives won't discuss the possible motive behind the killing of 17-year-old Yolanda Acevedo. But to her friends, the reason was clear: She was beautiful, and her assailants were jealous.
Acevedo died several hours after she was attacked, allegedly by two other teenage girls late Friday night in an alley behind an apartment complex in the 1800 block of West Glencrest Avenue, where she had lived with her family for two years.
Police on Saturday arrested two Anaheim girls: Nuvia Jeanneth Constantino, 17, and Linda Duarte, 16. Duarte lived in the apartment below Acevedo. The two suspects will be tried as adults, prosecutors said Monday, and were being held without bail at Orange County Juvenile Hall.
Police said a weeks-long feud led to the killing, in which Acevedo was stabbed in the neck, heart and lung. A 19-year-old friend from childhood who was with her was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital.
Neither the victims nor their alleged attackers were gang members, police said.
The killing stunned authorities because such extreme violence among young women is rare.
"We're so accustomed to hearing about males in fights and, unfortunately, [being] the victim of homicides," said Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez. "I haven't seen anything like this in my 30 years here."
Indeed, such crime is on the decline, said Chesney-Lind. Citing the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, she said female juvenile arrests for murder and non-negligent manslaughter dropped 43% from 1993 to 2002.
"I would suspect that in this case, [death] was not intentional," she said. "Girls tend to feel more guilty about what they do."
Acevedo's friends said Monday that they had spent several hours Friday straightening her hair before they gathered in the alley behind the apartment complex where she lived.
Trouble began when two girls and a teenage boy came out to the alley and reignited a disagreement that had been festering for several weeks, police and friends said.
The attackers "started stuff with us" and harassed Acevedo, said Laura Vizcarra, who attended elementary school with Acevedo and was wounded in the attack. "They always had something to say."
They "were talking trash," said Yesenia Mendoza, 19, Acevedo's sister-in-law, who said she was struck in the head with a bottle. "They came back with Corona bottles and hit us."
Acevedo "was beautiful, gorgeous," Vizcarra said. "They were jealous of her looks."
Neighbors heard the scuffle and called police, who arrived to find broken bottles and no one at the scene. They were notified by staff at Anaheim Memorial Medical Center after friends took Acevedo and Vizcarra there.
Knives and bottles are more common weapons of choice for girls than guns, said Chesney-Lind.
Some of the emotional reasons girls will pick fights include disagreements over boyfriends, gossip or "mean looks," she said. Boys usually commit violence for reasons related to gangs, drug sales or turf, she said.
In tough neighborhoods, Chesney-Lind said, girls may fight to gain respect, which they don't get through good grades or submissive behavior.
Usually, both the aggressor and the victim have lives marked by some sort of victimization, either poverty or poor relationships, she added.
Acevedo's father, Juan Acevedo, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, who works in construction, said he never spoke to his downstairs neighbors, did not know their names and was not aware his daughter was the object of any harassment from them.
Acevedo attended Brookhurst Junior High School before joining the Anaheim-based Orange County Conservation Corps, a work-study program in which participants divide their time between studies and public works projects.
Vizcarra spent part of Monday sweeping the ground in front of the makeshift memorial of beer cans, liquor bottles and carnations that stands where Acevedo was killed.
Friends and family members stood nearby, crying and sharing stories. A sign read, "May you be at Peace. Forever in Our Hearts."
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