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4OYS: Letters from Prison

Created: 05/21/2014 10:28 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Reporter’s Notebook—Some relationships are matches made in heaven. This is a story of a match made in the pits of hell.  From the beginning, the relationship was dangerous and quite frankly---a terrible idea. 

Alicia Phillips was just out of prison, living in a halfway house in Albuquerque in 2009.  There she met Kurt Vukonich, who was also recently out of incarceration.  Both were still grappling with the reality of facing society as convicted felons, trying to win back their approval of friends and family, and looking for jobs in an employment sector that doesn’t tend to hire felons often.  They found comfort in each other, but it wasn’t before long before things began to sour.  Alicia says Kurt grew violent and began to beat her. 

“I came to the realization that he was going to kill me,” Alicia said.  “He was going to choke me someday and not let go in time for me to live.  He had hit me with a shovel and sent me flying across the yard.”

Alicia told me in an interview in her hometown of Farmington that she tried leaving Kurt several times, but it never seemed to work.  But in 2012, Kurt was arrested and sent to prison for stealing a truck.  It gave relief to Alicia.  For the first time in years, she felt safe.  She was with her family in Farmington; Kurt was locked up in Hobbs. 

Soon after, Kurt started sending letters from his prison cell to Alicia.  At first, Alicia didn’t think much of them.  She would normally just write “Return to Sender” on the envelope without even opening it.  Eventually, she did start to read the letters and what she read frightened her. 

Kurt threatened her life, promised to hurt her, and promised vengeance.  Kurt accuses Alicia of stealing money from him, although Alicia denies it.  We also didn’t find any proof to support Kurt’s claims that he writes in his letters. 

What makes this situation extremely urgent is the fact that Kurt is scheduled to be released in September.

Alicia and her family contacted our 4 On Your Side Team because they felt that neither local law enforcement nor the NM Department of Corrections was taking Kurt’s threats seriously. 

Rose Bobchak, who is the acting director for probation and parole with the NM Dept. of Corrections, confirmed her team is already putting together a plan for Kurt’s release.  Part of the plan is to force him to wear a GPS ankle bracelet.  He won’t be allowed to enter the Farmington area and if he does an alert will be sent to his probation officer and to local authorities.  Bobchak also confirmed that the Warden at the Hobbs prison facility opened an investigation into the matter.  Because of these letters, Kurt may lose any good time credit he accumulated and his release date may be pushed back.  Additionally, the day after our interview in Farmington with Alicia, a detective with the NM State Police opened an investigation into the matter. 

We have attached a sample of Kurt’s letters for you to read.  A warning to young readers---Kurt’s language is filled with profanity and threats of violence. 

It’s important to mention that Alicia is taking proactive steps as well.  Very few people know where she lives, what her phone number is, or how to reach her.  The letters actually were sent to Alicia’s parents’ home.  Alicia keeps her address a closely guarded secret. 

Below is a list of resources for anyone who may be experiencing domestic violence:

New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence
http://www.nmcadv.org/

UNM Women’s Resource Center
http://women.unm.edu/resources/violence-against-women/domestic-violence.html

SAFE House New Mexico
http://safehousenm.org/

La Casa
http://www.lacasainc.org/

Read the letters from prison here.


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