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A Chowchilla Woman, Her Murderous Husband, and Failed Gun Control



Calley Family and Friends
Jodie Williams, Calley’s mother (left), and friends cry as speakers remember Calley Garay on Oct. 23, 2021. (CalMatters/Zaydee Sanchez)
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Eighteen miles south of the Central Valley home that was her prison, down Highway 99 past almond orchards and trucks overloaded with hay bales, sits the Madera County Superior Court.

The four-story steel structure with its light granite exterior boasts 10 courtrooms, large flat-screen monitors, and a glass-skinned atrium.

Robert Lewis

Robert Lewis


The courthouse opened in 2015 in this county of 160,000, part of a decades-long effort to shift funding and oversight of local courts to the state and ensure equal access to justice for all Californians.

“The Madera Courthouse was designed to demonstrate the transparency and dignity of democracy, providing a place to facilitate the workings of the American ideals of justice,” the architect’s website says.

Calley Garay, a 32-year-old mother of three young boys, came here in June 2020 seeking protection against her abusive husband.

Husband: Restraining Order Is Just a Piece of Paper

Julio Garay warned her that a restraining order was nothing more than a piece of paper and wouldn’t keep him away, court records show.

But the beatings were getting worse, the threats more ominous, and local law enforcement was still investigating her allegations. She needed help.

Julio Garay listens to witness testimony on Sept. 29, 2021, during his murder trial at the Madera County Superior Court. He was found guilty of murdering his wife, Calley Garay. (CalMatters/Larry Valenzuela)

So in June of last year, planning for a new life with her children free from his control, Calley filled out the standard domestic violence restraining order request. Hers was one of 72,000 such forms Californians – mostly women – filed statewide that fiscal year, including 211 in Madera County.

We are now married or registered domestic partners. Check.

We are the parents together of a child or children under 18. Check.

I believe the person…owns or possesses guns, firearms, or ammunition. Check

The answer to that last question on Calley’s form told the court her case could be particularly dangerous.

Research shows the presence of a firearm increases the likelihood domestic violence will turn deadly. It’s why people who are the subject of a restraining order in California – even a temporary one – aren’t allowed to have guns. By law, they are supposed to surrender their weapons to law enforcement or a licensed dealer within 24 hours of being served.

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