Women 'need to speak out': Gaby Ramos killing spurs sister to take up domestic violence cause

Rocio Cifuentes holds a picture of her sister, Gaby Ramos, allegedly killed at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2021, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. The photo was taken at Cifuentes' Taylorsville home.

Rocio Cifuentes holds a picture of her sister, Gaby Ramos, allegedly killed at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2021, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. The photo was taken at Cifuentes' Taylorsville home. (Tim Vandenack, KSL.com)


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TAYLORSVILLE — Since the killing of her sister Gaby Sifuentes Castilla, Rocio Sifuentes hasn't let up.

In the aftermath of the brutal 2021 slaying of the woman better known as Gaby Ramos, allegedly at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Rocio Sifuentes immediately took to social media to recruit help in tracking the suspect, who ultimately fled to Mexico. She pressed for his extradition, and the man, Manuel Burciaga-Perea, is now jailed in Utah on an aggravated murder charge and more.

Significantly, Sifuentes has also taken up the cause of domestic violence, pressing to raise awareness and taking any opportunity to speak to women and others about the issue. Ramos, who had shared a home in Taylorsville with her sister and her family, hosted a radio program on a local Spanish-language radio station, KMRI. She was well known in the Latino community, and her Oct. 17, 2021, killing caused shock waves.

"The message is to all the women out there — they need to speak out. They need to find the resources," said Sifentues, learning more about the cause as she goes. "I want to tell them — they're not alone."

Her sister, Sifuentes said, had struggled finding help to deal with the chaos of her relationship with Burciaga-Perea, and Sifuentes' focus is spreading the word about available programming for those suffering domestic violence. Ramos, survived by a young daughter, ultimately started counseling via video calls with a therapist in Mexico, unable to find help locally, and Sifuentes doesn't want those who need help and support to go without it.

Rocio Cifuentes with posters she made featuring her sister, Gaby Ramos, who prosecutors say was killed at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2021, on Wednesday. The photo was taken at Cifuentes' Taylorsville home.
Rocio Cifuentes with posters she made featuring her sister, Gaby Ramos, who prosecutors say was killed at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2021, on Wednesday. The photo was taken at Cifuentes' Taylorsville home. (Photo: Tim Vandenack, KSL.com)

"I help women get resources. A lot of Latina women have a lot of need, but they don't know how to get it or where to get it," Sifuentes said. A preliminary hearing for Burciaga-Perea is scheduled for Sept. 19.

What's more, some women here in the United States without proper authority may worry they'll get on the radar screen of immigration authorities, or face deportation, if they seek help or go to police. Domestic violence shelters, though, offer help to all who need it, no matter their immigration status, she said.

In her efforts to further the cause, Sifuentes said she has spoken at the Mexican Civic Center in Salt Lake City, a cultural organization, and met with Park City police on the issue. She has organized rallies on behalf of her sister's case and worked with individual women facing exploitation and violence.

Moreover, she and Brandy Farmer, head of the Mexican Civic Center in Salt Lake City, are also talking about pressing for creation of a system to alert the public to look out for suspects in domestic violence killings when they occur. They dub the proposed system the Gaby Alert, modeled after the Amber Alert, which is designed to help locate missing, abducted and endangered children.

'I remember my sister, and that makes me strong'

Sifuentes, originally from Mexico City, like her sister, had never really been engaged in any sort of movement, certainly not in the push to stop domestic violence. Her husband works in construction, and she's a medical assistant. But she's grown passionate about the topic, and Farmer has helped guide her along the way.

Some, Farmer said, "just want to get past it, and they don't want to identify as a domestic violence survivor." Farmer formerly served as director of domestic violence programming for the Utah Attorney General's Office and is very tuned-in to the issue.

Gaby Sifuentes Castilla, 38 — better known as Gaby Ramos, a radio host — was shot and killed in Taylorsville on Oct. 17, 2021.
Gaby Sifuentes Castilla, 38 — better known as Gaby Ramos, a radio host — was shot and killed in Taylorsville on Oct. 17, 2021. (Photo: Taylorsvile police)

By contrast, Sifuentes was present at the Taylorsville home she shared with Ramos when the woman, 38, was killed, and she's not letting the subject go. Prosecutors say Burciaga-Perea knocked on the door of the home, and when Ramos answered, he shot her multiple times and killed her.

"He was so jealous. He tried to control her. He was so aggressive with her," Sifuentes said. Her sister had broken up with Burciaga-Perea three times, Sifuentes said, but the frayed and tangled relationship just lingered and Ramos felt like she couldn't get out.

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Perhaps Sifuentes is motivated by the memory of her sister or a desire to prevent a recurrence of what happened to Ramos. Both factors probably figure in the mix. But whatever the motivation, Farmer welcomes her involvement.

"The more people that can teach and learn the dynamics (of domestic violence) and do the work, the better it is for everyone," Farmer said.

The work — a volunteer effort for Sifuentes — doesn't come without its down moments, though. But the memory of Ramos keeps Sifuentes going.

"Sometimes I feel tired and frustrated and depressed. I remember my sister and that makes me strong," she said.

Domestic violence resources

Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:

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Tim Vandenack covers immigration, multicultural issues and Northern Utah for KSL.com. He worked several years for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and has lived and reported in Mexico, Chile and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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