By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Bad decisions lead to Juliani tragedies
Placeholder Image
Stanislaus County is still reeling in grief over the horrible murder of 4-year-old Juliani Cardenas whose body was pulled from the Delta-Mendota canal near Patterson last week. Stories of this nature are painful to watch unfold. We automatically search our minds in an attempt to understand how someone like Jose Esteban Rodriguez could carry out such an ultimate act of evil to inflict pain on his mother, the one who broke off a relationship with him.

But are we willing to stare into the unvarnished truth that millions of women like Tabitha Cardenas make supremely unwise relational decisions that have far-reaching and terrible consequences? Are we honest and brave enough to talk about bad decisions having consequences?

It's not with any mean-spiritedness towards Juliani's mother that I write this, but the "if onlys" play out in my mind.

Tabitha Cardenas and son lived with her mother, Amparo Cardenas. It's telling that Amparo told the Bee that allowing Rodriguez to move in with her daughter was "the worst mistake I have ever made."

Was the Cardenas household dismissive about Jose Esteban Rodriguez's checkered past when he came on scene or did they gloss over what they suspected? Did they know he had a criminal past that included a 1999 manslaughter conviction, drunken driving and allegations about unlawful sexual intercourse? What about red flags of purported jealousy and possessiveness?

I wish we'd connect the dots that tragedies such as this - and hosts of others - are indeed rooted in fatherlessness. I remain convinced that most of our societal ills today trace back to fatherlessness.

With marriage rates declining, the divorce rate holding at just under 50 percent and cohabitation rates on the rise, we have a huge problem of fatherlessness in America. It's no coincidence that as dad has disappeared, we also have a greater percentage of violent young men walking our streets killing others, joining gangs and peddling drugs for living.

More kids today live in fatherless homes than ever before. Typically, after a divorce or partner break-up, a woman with children seeks out another mate, often for economic survival but mostly for romantic companionship.

I am not discounting the role of good, positive stepfathers in American households. There are millions of good, decent stepfathers who love children who are not their own. But research proves out some scary conclusions. Succumbing to the pressure in feeling "alone" cause many women to make unwise and hasty decisions regarding a new partner. Psychology researchers Martin Daly and Margo Wilson discovered, in their analysis of homicide data from Canada and Detroit, that stepchildren who live with a step parent (usually, a stepfather), are anywhere from 40 to 100 times as likely to be murdered or maimed as those who live with two biological parents in the household. And a number of studies have shown that girls living with non-natal fathers are at a much higher risk for sexual abuse than girls living with natal fathers.

A Swedish research team led by Hans Temrin has an interesting theory as to why. The team notes that men who marry women with children from previous unions, tend to be more criminal and violent in the first place! Their reasoning has merit: Divorced women with children are on average older, so they have "lower mate value" than younger women with no children. (Given choice, and all else equal, all men would probably prefer to marry younger women without children rather than older women with children from other men.) Thus, they note, women with lower mate value are more likely to connect with men with lower mate value. And men in that category tend to be more criminal and more violent.

Radio's well-known Dr. Laura Schlesinger catches flak when she controversially asserts that women should forget romantic relationships after they break up with the fathers of their children, saying their energy and focus needs to be on raising healthy children. While her advice to wait until the kids are 18 has merit - few women will actually take her up on it - women can certainly be more selective about who they allow in their lives. Tabitha Cardenas should not have dismissed nor discounted the character flaws and criminal record of her ex-boyfriend. She should have ran, not embraced him. Surely people in her life could have gotten tough and leveled with her that Rodriguez was a particularly bad choice. Amparo Cardenas, unfortunately in retrospect, learned a terrible lesson that she should not have consented to allow Rodriguez to move in to live life as a couple with her adult daughter. Few parents today are willing to show "tough love" to even their adult children.

Because of horrendous decisions to enter a relationship with a bad man, her little boy is dead.

It's too late for Juliani, but it's not for other women who are risking their precious little ones because of the presence of defective men in their lives.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at