The Campus Center Main facility at Los Angeles Mission College in Sylmar was filled by the somber silence of students, faculty and guests on Tuesday, Sept. 17, all struggling to process and understand the murder of Darlene Montes, the college’s Dean of Academic Affairs.
Montes, 49, had died the day before from having been stabbed multiple times in her Rancho Cucamonga residence. Arrested on suspicion of murder was her father, Joe Edward Montes, 71, who had called the California Highway Patrol to report the crime. That call was quickly transferred to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies, who raced out to the residence shared by father and daughter.
During the transfer of the call to the Sheriff’s dispatcher, Joe Montes reportedly said he had repeatedly stabbed Montes. He waited at the home until deputies arrived.
The victim was transported Monday to the San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland for treatment, but did not survive her injuries.
Joe Montes was booked at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. He was arrested “based on statements and physical evidence at the scene,” a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department said.
What situation in the home that day caused her father to become violent and allegedly stab his daughter multiple times is not yet known. Detectives have only said the case remains under investigation. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, counseling was available for those on campus who needed support.
“Our entire campus community was saddened to learn of the untimely death of our beloved Dean of Academic Affairs, Darlene Montes,” said Mission College President Dr. Monte Perez in a released statement. “Darlene was a beautiful soul. She was well-loved on campus, and touched the lives of countless community college students, not to mention faculty, staff, and administrators. We are going to miss her terribly.”
“All of LACCD is grieving,” added Perez, referring to the nine community colleges that belong to the Los Angeles Community College District, of which Mission College is a member.
The president also spoke at the Student Center on Tuesday, extolling Montes’ education career that started in 2001 at the LACCD in the Personnel Commission before becoming the campus’ first public relations manager for the president in 2008. She continued to work her way up, becoming Dean of Academic Affairs in 2014 where she helped oversee a variety of programs including Dual Enrollment, Chicano Studies, English, the Library and the Learning Resource Center.
In 2016, Montes was cited for her contributions to the Paralegal and Administration of Justice programs on campus through her service on their advisory boards, and her support of individual projects, according to a press release from Mission College.
“I just want to say I’m so sorry for all this, because she was such an amazing person. We’re here [today] to hug each other and support each other during this difficult time,” Perez said.”
Nicole Albo-Lopez, vice-president of academic affairs, described Montes as someone who brought energy, wisdom and purpose to the academic affairs meetings.
Her death is “a terrible loss,” Albo-Lopez said.
Also expressing sadness was Montes’ friend Danny Villanueva, who was a classmate of hers at both Garfield High in East LA and attended graduate school at La Verne College.
“I’m angry,” said Villanueva, between sobs. “I feel cheated. I don’t get to talk to my friend anymore. She had the biggest heart. I had the privilege to see her in action in staff meetings, and it didn’t come close to what she was as a person. I couldn’t remotely hold a candle to her. An angel; that’s her.”
Added Larry Resendez, vice president of student services, “Darlene, to me, was just a sweet soul. I see her as…just someone who was a bright, shining star who was in our minds and our hearts.”
Jose Luis Ramirez, a counselor at Mission College, said Montes “had a lot of responsibilities handed to her. She was well-respected. A lot of people here are missing her already.
“She was a dynamic person, always very positive, always smiling when you said ‘Hi’ to her in the hallways. But once she sat down to do the work of the college, you could tell her professionalism was evident all the time,” Ramirez said.
Perez said the college hoped to plan a “Celebration of Life” for Montes later in the year if the family agrees.
A gofundme.com account was established by the college for Montes, with a goal of $10,000 to help with funeral expenses. As of Wednesday, Sept. 18, the fund has already received more than $4,000.
Comments written by her friends and colleagues noted her hard work as an administrator and kind encouragement to colleges and student.
“Darlene was a beautiful person with an immense generous heart,” wrote donor Gloria San Jose Daims. “Darlene’s soul was bright, brave and so loving. An outstanding and unforgettable colleague.”
Another donor, Karen Smith, wrote, “Condolences from the students and staff at Discovery Charter Preparatory for the family of Dean Montes. She played an integral role in the development of our Dual-enrollment Program. We thank you!”
If you would like to donate to Montes’ gofundme account, visit this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/inmemoryofdarlene