Murder case involving Fil-Am teen raises mental health concerns

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Filipino American Adrian Jerry Gonzalez was seen as an all-around normal boy who was accepted by the community of the Tannery apartment complex where he and his family lived.

The 15-year-old was set to become a sophomore at Santa Cruz High School and was known to be a yo-yo enthusiast.

“I’ve always known him to be quiet and polite, and he rides his skateboard around, and he plays with his yo-yo. And he’s always been a good kid,” said Yasmina Porter, a Tannery Apartments resident.

That’s why Gonzalez’s neighbors were shocked when they learned he is the only suspect in the death of 8-year-old Maddy Middleton.

Ian McRae co-owns a cafe at the Tannery apartments says he understands the uneasy feelings among the tight-knit community.

“If you asked anybody four days ago what was the experience of children of being at the tannery: they have an opportunity to see dance classes, and music, poetry, and art classes and have a lot of people looking out for them,” said McRae. “It would be the safest place in the world to be part of that community but such was not the case.”

Despite what Gonzalez’s neighbors thought about him, cryptic messages were found in his now deleted Instagram account that included a post that read “wears all black to try and look powerful and hide the crippling anxiety towards the future and the constant worry that I’ll never find someone who loves me.”

“There will always be signs in terms whether a person especially children may be going through mental health challenges,” said Eddy Alvarez, a mental health advocate in San Jose, CA.

Alvarez says that the stigma of mental illness can be greater in immigrant communities, like the Filipino community, compared to other groups.

“This is a boy transitioning from a child to an early adult. It’s a transitional age where so many things are happening,” said Alvarez. “There are physical changes. There are mental health changes. There are emotional changes and if people do not know what could be the changes that could be associated with normal developmental growth as opposed to what could be possible changes that can be attributed to mental health challenges people will never know what to catch.”

Gonzalez’s lawyer and the district attorney have declined to release a motive as this time.

Alvarez says that while this is a tragic event, he urges the Filipino community to raise awareness to mental health issues.

“Let’s empower people with the knowledge of how to deal with mental health issues that will reduce the stigma we are talking about,” said Alvarez.

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