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Friday, May 15, 2015

A Prayer for Mildred Alvarado

A random cemetery in small-town New England. Mary's feet are frozen in the snow. Still, she does not flinch. She is framed by a blue-grey winter sky; her stone hands pressed together in urgent supplication for the souls of the buried bodies in her midst.  It's almost dusk. Whitened wisps of clouds descend upon the shadowy hills. In this silent setting of tombstones and crosses, Mary's billowing form towers above the rest.
Mildred Alvarado's feet were also frozen in the snow. When her lifeless body was discovered at the ravine in Harwinton on January 20, 1989, Mildred's shoes had been removed. The killer must have kept them as a souvenir to mark his morbid fait accompli.

Mildred also wore no coat. Winters in Northwest Connecticut can be brutal, in terms of the cold. A tee-shirt and denim vest are hardly sufficient. Did the killer keep Mildred's coat, as well as her shoes? It's likely that Mildred was killed in an indoor location, or in the killer's vehicle, after taking off her coat.

How the Alvarado family wants Mildred remembered. 

The first thing you notice about Mildred Alvarado in her mug shot is her enormous glasses. It was the late eighties, after all, and spectacles on steroids were all the rage. But even by those outdated standards, Mildred's glasses were extraordinarily large. A single mother of four children, Mildred could pass for a teenager in this photo. Her wavy dark hair is messy; her bangs need trimming. Unlike Karen Everett, Mildred Alvarado's eyes are lifeless and without hope. At age 30, Alvarado had no doubt seen more, and suffered more, on the streets of Waterbury, Connecticut.

At the time of her death, Alvarado's life was in shambles. First off, she had bad taste in men. The two fathers of her children had long arrest records for drugs and neither one lived with Alvarado and the children. To make matters worse, Mildred had a serious addiction to heroin and supported the habit by selling her body. With her earnings going directly into her veins, Mildred had no money to pay her rent or support her children. Her neighbors at 45 Long Hill Road in Waterbury complained about the heavy traffic going in and out of Mildred's apartment. Fed up, Mildred's landlord, Geri Havard, evicted her and the children from the premises.

Now homeless, Mildred was forced to leave her two younger children, ages one and three, in the care of her grandmother. She hoped to get her life together. She had been a nurse's aid before turning to the needle. Maybe she could get clean and pursue that path again? Like most heroin addicts, Mildred desperately wanted to be free of her nightmarish addiction.

Unfortunately, the odds of successful remission and a productive future are not on the side of the typical heroin addict. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry finds that heroin addicts have only a 50 percent survival rate. The most common causes of death are drug overdose (21.6 percent), followed by homicide, suicide and accidents (19 percent), liver disease (15.2 percent) and cardiovascular disease and cancer (both at 11.7 percent). In Mildred's case, the tremendous stress of being a lower income, single mother of four children would also make her highly susceptible to relapse.

Though Havard had recently evicted Mildred, he described her with compassion following her death. "You could see when she'd sit outside with her boys, she really wanted to be with her kids" he told a reporter for the Republican American in November 2008. "She was the type of person your heart would go out to."

In the end, Mildred Alvarado, ravaged by heroin, was a loving mother who had been dealt a rotten hand in life.

Fly to Mary now, Mildred, as if in a dream.
Fall upon her snow covered feet and give to her the horror of your final moments on this earth.
In a mad frenzy, you convulsed and choked for air and all you could think about was your children, your poor children... You would never see them again.
Give to her your rage. Her serenity is your strength.
Now climb upon that pedestal, your bare feet touching upon hers, and rest yourself within that frozen, holy fire. 

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