More people were murdered in Austin in 2020 than in any year in the last decade. Here are their names.
Two days before New Year's Day, 21-year-old Miranda Gloria Lopez died of a gunshot wound. She was shot three days before during a road rage incident that is still being investigated, according to the Austin Police Department.
Lopez was Austin's last homicide victim in 2020, a year in which 48 people were killed. This represents a 33% increase since 2019, when 36 homicides were reported and marked at least a 10-year high.
Cathy Collins, a crime victims advocate at the Christi Center in Central Austin, saw an increased demand for services in 2020 due to the high number of homicides.
"People are COVID crazy," she told Austonia, adding that she thinks the pandemic and its economic impact have driven some people to commit heinous crimes. It has also affected her work as an advocate.
"Zoom has been challenging, but at least we have something for these members," she said.
Collins lost her teenage boyfriend and later her brother to homicides and knows the long-term support that many violent crime victims require, sometimes decades after their loved one's death. "It's on the front burner for me," she said.
In a trying year that included the coronavirus pandemic, mass protests against police violence, economic hardship and a divisive election, Austonia recognizes those who were murdered. Here are their names and—where available through obituaries, fundraising pages and local reports—a look at their lives.
Dec. 29: Miranda Gloria Lopez, 21, was known as "Mannie" by her loved ones.
Dec. 8: Craig Robinson, 51
Dec. 2: Omar Munguia, 20
Nov. 27: Ahlame Qourzale, 26, enjoyed traveling, sampling international cuisine, playing tennis and "the highest level of fashion."
Nov. 8: Alex Arce, 25, was the life of the party, known for his contagious laugh and beautiful smile.
Nov. 7: Mario Robinson, 23, played high school football and loved sports cars, fashion and professional racing.
Nov. 6: Jerry Paul Lee, 60, watched the film "Remember the Titans" so many times his wife and son can recite every line.
Oct. 30: Jose Francisco Galeano Antunez, 38, is missed dearly by his wife, Lourdes Mejia Gonzalez.
Oct. 26: Xavier McLemore, 34
Oct. 25: Terrence Cole, 28
Oct. 8: Darius Jonathan Maxwell, 39
Oct. 1: Donato Christian Ward, 20
Sept. 29: Luke Kemper, 16, was one of the best students his third-grade teacher ever had.
Sept. 16: John Young, 60
Sept. 4: Desmond Alexander Herrera, 25
Aug. 27: Amy Lynn Warner, 51, had been through a lot but was always smiling.
Aug. 26: Derrick Amoriko, 51, loved the city of Austin.
Aug. 26: Paul Brown, 21, was known as "Speedy."
Aug. 22: Dontra Jamol Kinsey, 27
Aug. 18: Nicklas Kinslow, 32
July 25: Garrett Foster, 28, fell in love with his fiancée when they were both 17 and later served as her caretaker.
July 20: Karen Sue Henson, 59, was the eldest of seven siblings and an advocate for the homeless.
July 19: Trevon Jaquis Mize-Ellison, 20, only wanted to look out for people.
July 16: Dettrick Dwayne Arnold Harris, 20, was a little handyman and always loved to help his grandpa around the house.
July 13: James Anthony Walker, 38, had just become a father to a precious baby boy.
July 8: Guadalupe Sanchez Jr., 36 was a loving father to two sons and enjoyed dancing with his dog, Chico.
June 28: Aaron Perez, 50
June 24: Darnell McClain, 37, was a lifelong Austinite known as "Dino."
June 23: Adelaido Bernabe Urias, 68, was a beloved neighborhood ice cream man.
June 20: David Dunn, 59
June 19: Anthony Hebert, 19, was pursuing a career as a truck driver and was known for his love of music.
May 28: James Lewis Allen Jr., 38, was described as loving, caring and strong by his loved ones.
April 16: Brian Hoff, 50 was a lover of the outdoors, drawing and skiing and raised sheep for livestock shows.
April 13: Saundra Jo Vollette, 60, was a lively Austin Yellow Checker Cab dispatcher and is survived by her children and many grandchildren.
March 29: Kalvin "Nunu" Anderson, 24, shined as a track star and football player while a student at Manor High School and will be remembered for his "heart of gold."
March 26: Zach Ledbetter, 24, was a loving son and faithful church-goer who will be remembered for his hugs and bright smile.
March 26: Julio Enriue Saqui Tzalam, 17
March 22: Lekita ReVette Hurd, 30, served four years in the Army, with two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was known for her love of the Dallas Cowboys.
March 13: Oscar San Juan Jaimes, 19
Feb. 23: Shawn Thomas Eaton, 29, was an artist who loved to tinker with anything he could get his hands on.
Feb. 18: Casuandra Hernandez, 30, and Emilio Maisonet, 29
Feb. 17: Elvi Vanessa Cervantes-de la Torre, 38
Jan. 23: David Garcia, 38
Jan. 17: Pearl Calvery, 22 months
Jan. 17: Chase Collins, 26, loved collecting designer belts and never met a challenge he could not overcome.
Jan. 11: Isaac Dixon, 37
Jan. 3: Jonathan Aguilar, 34, will be remembered for his genuine and caring nature.
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Tesla's third-quarter profits were released on Wednesday afternoon and current richest-man-on-earth Elon Musk topped the charts since his high-profile transition to Austin.
Q3 held record-high deliveries for the electric vehicle manufacturer, despite chip shortages and supply chain issues. Revenue came in slightly shy of expectations but still yielded the most profitable quarter thus far for Tesla. Plus, adjusted earnings per share are also on the up and up.
"A variety of challenges, including semiconductor shortages, congestion at ports and rolling blackouts, have been impacting our ability to keep factories running at full speed," Tesla said in a statement. "We believe our supply chain, engineering and production teams have been dealing with these global challenges with ingenuity, agility and flexibility."
According to Tesla's update, the EV giant's Q3 revenue came in at $13.76 billion—a big year-over-year increase as Tesla recorded $8.77 billion in Q3 of 2020. The expectation was $13.9 billion and though the company came in just a few million lower, it was the company's ninth-straight profitable quarter.
Though earnings were a touch lower than expected, adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.86, where expected had been $1.67, and a year ago was 76 cents per share.
An accomplishment for Tesla this quarter was delivering more than 241,300 vehicles worldwide from its California factory—almost half of what the company delivered throughout all of 2020.
This Q3 update comes on the heels of Tesla's announcement that it would move its headquarters to the capital city. Additionally, the new Gigafactory in southeast Travis County is looking more complete by the day. While full-scale production isn't slated to start until 2022, the factory has already begun testing its robotic assembly line.
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Radhia Gleis never meant to join a cult—in fact, she didn't even know she was part of one until decades after she had joined—and she's still picking up the pieces that her departure left behind.
Although it was Buddhafield, a movement that has been called a cult by a host of ex-followers, that brought Gleis to the Hill Country, the group's Austin presence has diminished to almost nothing. After over two decades in the group, Gleis revealed it all in her first-place PenCraft award-winning book, "The Followers, 'Holy Hell' and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders" in which she talks about the dangers of groupthink and the impact that spending years in the Buddhafield cult had on her.
Gleis now works as a clinical nutritionist and is working on healing through her art. (radiagleis.com)
From a "well-to-do" family in California, Gleis was learning how to make cocktails for wealthy dinner guests shortly after she learned how to walk. She grew up emotionally distant from her parents and only brother; Gleis vividly remembered being called "dopey" by her father, consistently forgotten by her mother and held at knifepoint by her brother.
Needless to say, Gleis grew up without secure connections. On top of that, she grew up in the 1960s and '70s during mass cultural upheaval, the free love movement and obsession with Eastern religions.
"There were these desires to expand your thinking, expand your consciousness as opposed to the 'Leave it to Beaver' kind of paradigm," Gleis told Austonia. "There was a rebellion, a schism in the culture."
She had become interested in the idea of nirvana when she was in high school, so when a friend told her about spirituality sessions with a beautiful woman named Malila who claimed to have experienced God directly, her interest was piqued.
Her experiences with Malila threw her into the spiritual realm. Gleis met Jaime Gomez, the would-be leader of the Buddhafield cult who went by many names, in the early 1980s through a friend of Malila's in California. Gomez, a native of Venezuela, was known to often wear only eyeliner and a speedo in his prime and when Gleis met him, he was clad only in a golden tan, skin-tight jeans and a small vest.
The Shakti scam
Gomez originally began guiding members through an independent spiritual journey but flags were raised when he began to see himself as a godlike figure. (WRA Productions LLC)
Her initiation was subtle—it started as just a group of friends who followed Gomez, a young yogi with a small but growing following, to learn techniques of "The Knowing" that he possessed. Members were initiated via "shakti," a godly transfer of power that opened your third eye. Members would "pranam," or deeply bow to show respect, to God during the first four years of Gleis' time with Gomez.
The initiation started as a relationship between the individual and their "divine birthright" through God.
"Generations were trying to get Shakti from him, they were trying to get his energy," Gleis said. "He was like, 'Whatever you experience in your initiation is between you and God, it has nothing to do with me.'"
Things started to change at the next initiation when Gomez had new members pranam to him and connect to his love, not the divine love they had come seeking.
"He would say, 'Well, Radhia, some people, not you, need a living person they can touch and see and talk to, I am just being that for them,'" Gleis said. "So he considered himself now a living deity like Jesus or Krishna or Buddha."
Although she did not support the pranam to Gomez, the shift was harrowing. While Gomez was a "skilled sociopath," Gleis said, he was also her friend and she was his close adviser; he knew all of her' hopes, dreams, fears and how to keep her around.
"If you go to Disneyland, it's a fantasy, but you're willing to forgo your disbelief for the fun, for the ride," Gleis said. "But what if you don't know it's fake? What if all your friends and all your family are in on it? And the one person that you revere the most is creating the illusion?"
It would take years for Gleis to learn Gomez was secretly taking advantage of members in the group.
The domino effect
The Buddhafield waltzed into Austin from West Hollywood in the late '90s after accusations against Gomez came out, Gleis would later learn. She found out that later that multiple members alleged that Gomez sexually abused them, and it was a pattern of his to jump ship and change his name once people started speaking out.
There were a few reasons the group chose Austin: their new home had to be in a warm climate, near a body of water, full of rich culture and jobs.
Having been in the cult for over a decade, the Austin move had triggered a need to build a life outside Buddhafield for Gleis. The connections she made outside the "family" she had made for herself led her to visit the home of an injured member of Buddhafield, where she says she was greeted by two men who told her tales of Gomez's transgressions.
Tales of Gomez attempting to hypnotize male members of the group into removing their clothes, which Gomez would deny, and his penchant for using the AIDS crisis to scare members into silence came to light. It was a feat in and of itself to tell a single soul about the things the victims had experienced, let alone make formal charges.
Among the victims was Will Allen, who released the documentary "Holy Hell," made from hours of his own original footage, in 2016 to detail his experiences.
The women in the group were untouched to Gleis' knowledge and some of the victims took years to gain the courage to speak out.
"Now it was like dominoes, it was like this was our #MeToo movement. When this guy came out, now all of a sudden, I'm getting phone calls because the rumors spread," Gleis said. "It was very heartbreaking—I started hearing all these stories of what (Gomez) had done and all the secrets that all of these men had been holding, these traumas that they had been holding in for years."
That was her line in the sand—so, at 55 years old, Gleis left Buddhafield, "alone and forsaken." And she has learned a good deal about herself since then—she works as a clinical nutritionist but left all of her friends behind, with no one to fall on but herself.
It has been 15 years since her departure—15 years to ponder how she was manipulated into that place. Gleis often compares those two decades of her life to Trumpism, where Gomez had tapped into her preconceived notions and led her to believe what she wanted to believe.
As someone who grew up not knowing love, it made sense to jump headfirst into the sense of community and protection that Buddhafield offered.
"We have to be careful when we use words like 'brainwashed.' We went willingly. Jaime didn't torture us. He didn't brainwash us," Gleis said. "All he did as a narcissist—he figured out what we were all thinking about and he became that for us. When you pranam to him, which we did, then he becomes bolder. That's what a sociopath does."
Gleis details her story of what led her in and out of Buddhafield in her book, "The Followers." Gomez and certain members who are still connected to Buddhafield have moved on to Hawai'i, but Gleis remains in Austin and is currently working on a children's novella.
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Austin will never feel more like itself come the end of November, as lines will be able to once again form around the block of Franklin Barbecue.
The acclaimed barbecue restaurant, recently named in Texas Monthly's top BBQ joints list, is opening its dining room for the first time since the onset of the pandemic on Nov. 23. So grab your folding chairs and arrive before you're even hungry because you can expect there to be an hours-long wait, just like pre-pandemic times.
Franklin's opened in 2009, becoming a world-renowned destination for good Texas barbecue. Long lines around the block on East 11th Street were the norm until the pandemic hit and the pitmasters decided to close their dining room, opting for curbside only.
It had originally planned to reopen its doors in August but postponed after a summer surge of COVID cases and hospitalizations.
In preparation of its reopening day, Franklin will be closed on Nov. 21.
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