Secret donor gives $300 to family of slain woman via Sentinel writer

Here are a few things to note about journalists:

It takes a lot to surprise a newshound.

Not many in the media are in the habit of opening mail that is delivered without a return address.

And as much as reporters like to believe the stories they write have an impact on those who read them, there are few instances where evidence of that impact is tangible and easy to see, or that it is even there at all.

But a letter sent Tuesday to Sentinel reporter Amy Hamilton managed to shatter the mold.

“I thought someone was trying to buy me off,” said Hamilton of a Christmas card sent to her anonymously that contained $300 in cash.

Hamilton saw the money before reading the note that accompanied it, which asked her to pass the money along to the family of 23-year-old Anna Maria Macias, who was killed by her boyfriend, Lonnie Herrera, 39, in March. Macias’ mother, Angie Rodriguez, has taken in three of her daughter’s four children, ages 2 to 9. The other child was taken in by his biological father, but they don’t live locally, family members said.

The letter was not signed, and the envelope listed The Daily Sentinel’s address as the return address.

“I don’t remember her name, but I was hoping you would pass this card on to her family,” the note read. “I believe she had other children they may need help caring for. Merry Christmas.”

The anonymous donor said a follow-up story Hamilton wrote Dec. 3 for the Mobile Junction blog on The Daily Sentinel Web site,, inspired the gift. The story describes a memorial set up in honor of Macias at the Garden Village Apartments, where one of Macias’ relatives lived and where the young mother was killed.

At the time of her death, Macias was 8 1/2 months pregnant.

The baby, Maria Elena, was delivered at St. Mary’s Hospital but died two days after her mother was killed.

Herrera is serving life in prison for Macias’ death.

Hamilton delivered the money to Rodriguez on Tuesday night and family members who were gathered at the home for the Christmas holiday said they were grateful for the gesture.

“It won’t be the same without her this year,” Rodriguez said in a quiet voice.

Although it’s been eight months since her daughter’s death, it still feels like last week, she said.

Rodriguez wasn’t going to decorate the home this year, but some family members pitched in and covered the modest home in an array of multi-colored lights. A memorial garden decorated with a bird house, ceramic angels and a frog, some of Macias’ favorite things, is set off in white lights in the front yard. A photo in the living room shows the young mother smiling during happier days, as if looking down on three of her children as they wrestled playfully on the floor near a Christmas tree circled with wrapped gifts at its base.

The family plans to have a large dinner tonight, which will probably include sopapillas and other traditional Mexican dishes.

“She liked to decorate,” said Lawrence Gay, Macias’ nephew, outside the brightly lit home.

“We usually wouldn’t do it this much, but we did it for her. She would have liked it.”

Staff writer Amy Hamilton contributed to this report.


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