Teen arrested in slaying of Cotati group home manager
A Cotati group home manager who overcame homelessness to earn a master’s degree in social work was stabbed to death Friday by a resident of the home where she worked, and the young man has been arrested on suspicion of homicide, police and family members said Saturday.
Friends and family on Saturday were mourning the loss of Sylvia Bracamonte, a Santa Rosa native and single mother of two children who worked as the program coordinator for Community Support Network’s Sanctuary House, which serves homeless young adults who live at a seven-bedroom house in downtown Cotati.
Cotati police identified the suspect as group home resident Anderson Quinonez-Cabeza, 18. He was taken into custody shortly after 3:45 p.m. Friday, according to a statement by Chief Michael Parish. The suspect was booked into the Sonoma County Jail, where he remained Saturday. He is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, according to jail records.
Quinonez-Cabeza was immediately detained inside the group home and Parish said the public was “never in danger.” He said Bracamonte was pronounced dead at the group home, which is located on Old Redwood Highway near George Street.
Bracamonte’s teen and young adult years tracked closely with those of the young people she tried to help. She was involved in drugs and gangs and dropped out of high school before she turned 16, she said in a 2013 video posted on YouTube as she accepted an award from the Chicana Latina Foundation.
“From that point on, I lived a very dangerous lifestyle for the next eight years,” she said in the video.
She realized that she needed to change her life after the birth of her son, Ryder, “because I wanted to give him a better life than what I had.”
Achieving that goal was difficult because Bracamonte was living in transitional housing through Catholic Charities, where she stayed for two years.
She started at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2010 and graduated three years later as the junior college’s first Latina valedictorian with a 3.9 GPA. She then attended UC Berkeley, where she received an undergraduate degree in social welfare and ethnic studies.
She went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from UC Berkeley in 2019.
During the 2013 video, Bracamonte spoke of why she wanted to go into social work.
“I feel like my life experiences have empowered me with strength and empathy that I can use to touch the lives of many people,” she said. Her focus was on young mothers and Latino youths susceptible to gangs. “My story is important … there’s many other people with my story that probably need to hear it,” she added.
While in the East Bay, Bracamonte worked with at-risk youth, interning in Oakland at Covenant House, where she provided services to young people who were homeless. She also worked with Bay Area Community Resources as a school therapist trainee at De Anza High School in Richmond, where she provided services to high school students.
After her graduate studies, she moved back to Santa Rosa to the community where she grew up.
She was living with her mom and stepdad and her two children at the time of her death.
Family members, who recalled her love of the Oakland Raiders and nachos, said a GoFundMe account has been set up in her name and that the money would go to her children, 11-year-old Ryder and 3-year-old Xochitl. It had raised more than $18,000 as of Saturday night.
At Sanctuary House, Community Support Network’s staff work with young adults who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The Guerneville nonprofit’s website describes the home as “a safe living environment with structured programming to support (transitional-age youth) as they gain and strengthen life skills for independence.”
“This is a tragedy for our organization, our community and neighborhoods,” said Tom Bieri, Community Support Network’s executive director, in a statement. “We will continue to work tirelessly in collaboration with our community partners to help those in our community who are most vulnerable and counsel those in our care on how to process this loss.
“We are grateful for the outpouring of support from all our community partners. The heart of Sonoma County is full of love.”
Family members said they had been concerned for Bracamonte’s safety because she told them that Quinonez-Cabeza had been threatening her for at least a month.
Her aunt, Delia Garcia, said Bracamonte told her last week about Quinonez-Cabeza’s threats. He said to her, “I know what you are about to do. ... The demons told me I have to get to you,” Garcia said Bracamonte told her.
Bracamonte’s mom heard her daughter on Thursday talk about new threats from the suspect, Garcia said.
Bracamonte went to work around 1 p.m. Friday and the family feared the worst when they heard the police scanner reports of a stabbing, Garcia said.
“Her boss should have not let that man come in there,” Garcia said.
When asked in an email about the family’s allegations that Bracamonte had been threatened by the man suspected of killing her, Bieri said only that his agency “is cooperating with the police department on the investigation. We have no further comment until the investigation is complete.”
Cotati police are being assisted by officers from Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park and officials with the District Attorney’s Office as part of the investigation, Parish said.
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BillSwindell.
Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat
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