A Senseless Violent Crime Tore Our Lives Apart

I am a 75-year-old man who spent 24 years doing what I could for others. I'm used to taking care of myself and others, but I am at a point where I have to reach out in a way I never thought I'd have to. Four years ago, my wife and I were the victims of a violent crime involving a crazed gunman and while he's thankfully in jail, we have not been able to recover from the injustice he has delivered upon our lives. 

Please know that I'm not one to put my hand out asking for help. That's just not me. Before I retired, I had worked at Doctor's Medical Center in Modesto, California for 20 years, and after that, another 4 years in the lab at Doctor's Hospital in Manteca, Ca. 
We worked, we planned, and we thought our situation was stable to live out our retirement. We rented a home in the woods, up in the Sierra Mountains, where we thought we would live throughout our retirement years. My wife is very frail and has been away from her family also. She misses her son and his family so much that it breaks my heart to see her in such misery.

This vicious attack on us has turned our lives upside down. And while the justice system may work when it puts people in prison to prevent the violence from happening again, it often doesn't fix the fallout from the event that can be as bad and in some ways worse than the event itself. Unfortunately, the confluence of these events has been more than our financial planning could handle and we have gone from motel-hopping to sleeping in the car to staying at shelters to finally now living in a 60-year-old mobile home badly in need of repair.

Although we have tried to be thankful for life's blessings since the incident and not focus on our struggles, this wasn't the plan. If you've ever been a victim of a crime, then you know the details from police reports aren't always as clear as they should be to express the full brutality of the violence perpetrated on the victims. But our documented statements tell what happened that Sunday morning in detail. So much so that the perpetrator was sentenced to 22 years in prison. 
He will not be able to bring violence to anyone else in the future. 
You can find my victim impact statement to the court below.

Before this vicious attack, we rented this beautiful home for seven years and were stellar tenants. After the attack, my landlord was so distressed over the multiple bullet holes in the walls of his property that he kicked us out and sold the home. 
Even 25-30 years ago this would have been a difficult situation but when you're in your 70s and renting. But it's even harder on a fixed income in a society that isn't as open to hiring seniors--especially with a recent diagnosis of Stage Three Kidney Disease. My only family is my adult daughter who is struggling with mental illness and my grandson, who is a hard working truck driver who looks out for his mom.
My daughter can be so proud of the way she has faced her struggles with courage and a determination to recover from terrible circumstances that were out of her control.

So with the bedrock of our stability torn away due to a crime and illness presenting an additional challenge, I have realized more than ever that each day is a gift to us no matter the challenges we face as we walk our paths. How we respond to these challenges as they present themselves eventually tells the story of our lives.

Your funding will help us make the move back home and secure a stable place to live, which we can maintain with our fixed income. It will also make it possible for me to be available for my daughter in order to assist her in her efforts to stabilize a very difficult situation.
And your contributions will also make it possible for my wife to reunite with her family who also live in the same area in the state.
As you can imagine, having a home base will also reduce stress on our physical health and well-being which will allow me to focus on doing everything possible to slow, if not reverse, my recent diagnosis. 
 
To finish up, I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read about our life-changing struggles after that terrifying attack on us. 
And I'd like to again express my deepest thanks to all those who have already reached out with their compassionate donations. 
We will be so very thankful for any and all contributions to help our small family recover from these tragic events in our lives.

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BELOW THIS LINE IS MY VICTIM STATEMENT MENTIONED EARLIER IN MY STORY
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Victim Impact Statement by John Hodgins 5/28/18

Following is my account of the events on the morning of April 2nd, and what
occurred two days before on Friday of that same week. I will begin with a little
background to those events.
I initially rented the 3-bedroom house where this happened in March of 2011.
I began sharing my home with Jeanne around a year later. About a month or
so before renting to Levya, Jeanne had to go care for her mother who was
needing around the clock care. Since my only income comes from my Social
Security allotment, I sublet one of the bedrooms to Mark Leyva to help with
paying the rent. I helped him move in myself; even allowing and helping move
in his piano. Didn't even take any money from him for the first three weeks. I
also sublet a room to Mark Brown a few weeks later because the roof of the
house he was in at the time had snow damage and his landlady was not in
any hurry to fix it. It was winter and cold, so I offered him a room also.
On that morning of April 2nd, Mark Leyva came into the house with a loaded
gun. A couple of days before, I had knocked on his door to inform him that
the electric bill had increased and we would all need to pay an additional $15
a month to pay the bill. He told me to f___ myself & that he was "outta here".
He then left the house and took some of his belongings with him. There was
no 'disturbance' between myself and Levya at that time or when he came
back on Sunday morning. This was a thought-out plan. That was obvious from
the start. Once he got there and began his attack, he decided we both had to
be left dead.
Thank God for Mark Brown!

When Levya came back two days later on Sunday morning, Jeanne & I were
talking in our bedroom that was across the hall from his room. I heard the
door leading to the garage slam and looked to see who it was. Levya was in
the hallway and immediately started telling me that I thought I was "a big
man" and brought out a loaded 9-millimeter hand gun. I then stuck my head
back into our bedroom to tell Jeanne that Leyva had brought a gun into our
home. She got up from the bed as I turned back to him where he was in the
hallway outside the door to his room. He started shoving me and made us go
into the living room. I immediately tried to take the gun from him, but wasn't
successful. Instead he cracked my skull with the butt of it repeatedly(5
staples repaired my skull). I heard Jeanne scream while she tried to get him
to stop hammering me on my head. He threw her backwards with his other
arm as he continued to crack my skull. My blood was blinding me, so I ran to
the kitchen sink so I could use the water to wash the blood out of my eyes. As
I turned around, he was on me. He shot our Toshiba TV(value of $1200 new).
And my 24" iMac computer(value of $1800 according to Apple's website) that
had my Iomega 1TB external hard drive($260 value by online search)
attached to it. I took this external drive to a computer repair shop in Sonora in
February of this year and they could not get it to work. The estimate given to
me by them was $1000 to do a 'wash' of the device. The hard drive attached
to the iMac was where I stored all of my thousands of music files and many
music concert videos collected during the past 20 years. These would be
expensive to purchase again. A reasonable estimate to replace them would
be $2000 and I can not afford to do this with my meager income from social
security. He then went to my deceased son's memorial that was on a table
next to the iMac and picked up one of his framed photos that came from
when my son was a boy and threw it down to smash it on the floor. He took
the picture from the frame and ripped it into little pieces. He then grabbed a
special photo of my daughter that was on the other side of my computer table
and smashed that frame also. He then ripped my daughter's picture into
pieces.

I haven't been able to find a professional photography laboratory as yet that
might give me an estimate for the cost to repair my beloved son's destroyed
photos. They are so precious to me. And my daughter's photo too. The
pieces have been in storage ever since we were pushed out of our home.
Another of my son's photos was severely damaged when milk from a bowl in
the area was somehow spilt on it during this part of the attack. I only
discovered this when we returned a week later after being in hiding. Jeanne
was so very afraid that he would find us again and 'finish the job' since Levya
was somehow released on only $50,000 bond the day after this violent attack
on us. His longtime girlfriend(from what they told me when he first moved in
to my home) bailed him out that next morning. Jeanne's fears were very real
and understandable since he had repeatedly told us that "we were both going
to die" that day.

I guess that was when he shot me in my upper right arm. I had dropped my
head in disbelief and sorrow after seeing him destroy my most precious
memories of my son who I lost 20 years ago and didn't see him shoot me. I
just felt a stinging in my arm but didn't think anything about it. The bullet went
thru my right arm and hit Jeanne in her left lower leg while she was standing
somewhat behind me. Everything was happening so fast and I was in total
shock. I felt a ringing in my head and couldn't focus on what was happening
for a minute. It was at this moment that he put the gun to my forehead(which
brought me back to reality) because I wasn't answering his incessant
question of "how's this going for you now big man?" He told me that he would
just shoot me in the head right then if I didn't answer. Surprisingly...I felt no
fear. Instead I became very clear in my mind that I needed to stay calm and
do what I could to save us. He told us time and time again that we were both
going to die that day pointing the gun at us continually. He boasted that he
had killed before and said "I haven't killed anyone for four years but you're
both going to die today".

But he forgot about Mark Brown, who I had rented my other room to recently,
who jumped out of his window and called 911. A swat team arrived eventually
and took Levya away. The landlord understandably wanted to get into the
house to make the necessary repairs(bullet hole in a window and a few in the
walls) as well as needing to get my blood from the carpet. The landlord
wanted money more than he cared about what we had been through. I get
it...it's just business. But it's not...we are elderly victims of a violent crime and
weren't able to find another rental because of our economic status and the
tight rental market. It doesn't seem as if our rights were considered when an
eviction was ordered by a judge from this county, without our having
anywhere else to go. Somehow Leyva was let out on bond the day after the
attack! In fact, it was his longtime girlfriend, Ellen Smith, who bailed him out
and took him home with her. Jeanne was so traumatized that we were 'in
hiding' for a week while Mark Leyva was free to kick back at Smith's house. In
fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it were discovered that some of his assets are
combined with hers. He and she had lived together at different times from
what they told me initially. Her name may be on the deed to her house; but
from what they told me in my living room when I initially sublet the room to
him, they had been in a relationship together for many years.

When we came back to the house; the landlord demanded that I sign a
statement that we would vacate the premises by April 30 and leave the house
"in the same condition as when he moved in"…meaning me. But obviously
that couldn't happen since there were bullet holes in the walls and my blood
was on the carpet.
We had only one option at that time. That was an apartment that was
arranged by an acquaintance 2500 miles away in Alabama. It took us another
few weeks to put all that we could in boxes. We moved what we could into a
storage unit and prepared to drive across the country. Just to have a place to
live after being brutally victimized by a gunman and then being forced to find
another home using a system that is geared for those with good credit and
three times the income of the rental price. We found that we couldn't find
another rental that quickly on our own. And we needed financial assistance
but I was told by the Tuolumne County Assistant District Attorney that "this is
a poor county and there's not a lot of funds to assist you". They could help up
to a point, but we needed to obtain a new residence by ourselves. I was
hoping that the county would realize that we only had our S.S. to keep
ourselves from the street and also somehow find another home in a very tight
housing market. It really felt as if we were being victimized again...this time by
the system and policies. If you know what I mean.

A swat team rescued us that day, but the days and months after the attack
have been even harder to bear at times. The eviction led to our driving back
and forth across the southern states, going from motel to motel to extended
stay hotel. Our meager S.S. checks don't always last, so we have had to live
homeless at times. Regretfully, we have not been able to stop long enough
on our journey to locate a good therapist to help with the after-effects os this
trama or locate an attorney who might represent us in court in this matter. We
have no money to pay for this representation, but we have the hope that
someone might take our case pro-bono. We have recently been informed that
Levya has pleaded guilty to all charges and will be sentenced for his crimes
against us.

If you see this for what it is, we couldn't care less whether this man gets 10 or
40 years for trying to kill me that day. That was his desire…it was obvious
from the beginning that morning. I don't know how to describe for you what
Levya was like that morning, except to say that his eyes had a burning evil
and his behavior was that of someone who had thought out what he was
going to do when he arrived at our home. Tragically, Jeanne was there that
morning and became a witness that needed to be left dead. These are not my
imaginings…these were his words to us.

I believe that the only reason that we were not killed outright that morning
was that he was in control of hurting me in any way that he could and he
thought he would have more time to 'make me pay' for whatever his
demented mind thought I was responsible for. He thought he could take his
time, I guess. Also, a strange thing happened while Jeanne and I were in our
master bathroom's shower. I had locked the door and we stayed in the
shower stall until we exited the house. Jeanne told me that she had heard a
woman's voice in the other bathroom which was on the other side of our
shower's wall. I mentioned this to the D.A.'s office when we were contacted
by them initially but strangely, I never heard any response as to what might
be done to investigate this.
Levya had always used Ellen Smith's car to get around. He told me that his
transmission was bad on his car. I guess his car was parked at her house
while he drove her car. I find it plausible that a woman could have joined
Levya during his trip to my house to get the rest of his stuff. That would
account for Jeanne hearing a female voice while we stayed in the master
shower.

We are at this time staying in a shelter in Eugene Oregon; where we would
eventually like to make a new home. It is so dirty and ugly here in this room at
the shelter, but our social security has run out again and we have grown tired
of sleeping in the front seats of our car or on the ground; when we aren't
wasting what little money we have on motels or asking help from our families.
We still are silently slipping thru the cracks of this system that is meant to
protect us and keep us safe...
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John Hodgins 
Organizer
Cottage Grove, OR