Family of Tensia Martinez Richard says life was looking up for herThe 22-year-old had undertaken the difficult process of putting a tumultuous marriage behind her. Ahead of her lay a life of raising her two young sons, time spent with a close-knit family, perhaps a return to school, someday, perhaps, even her own bakery.
Tensia Martinez Richard was hopeful.
The 22-year-old had undertaken the difficult process of putting a tumultuous marriage behind her. Ahead of her lay a life of raising her two young sons, time spent with a close-knit family, perhaps a return to school, someday, perhaps, even her own bakery.
Those dreams and that future met a terrifying, violent end on Oct. 25 when her estranged husband Chevel Richard shot her to death at a Cottage Grove strip mall before taking his own life.
But, beyond the abrupt end to her life lay a woman her older brother, Michael Martinez, and uncle, Steve Hanson, say was a doting, devoted mother with a quick wit and infectious personality.
“You couldn’t help but fall in love with her the first time you met her,” Hanson said of his niece in a recent interview at his home. The Bulletin was granted an interview with Tensia’s relatives last week.
The core of who Tensia was, of the person she had become, were her young sons, Chavelo, 3, and Ace, 7 months.
“Everything she did, it always came back to those boys,” her uncle said.
As a teenager, her brother said, she had been, at times, rebellious and suspicious of authority. As a mother, she had blossomed into a model of loving, caring responsibility, he said, sacrificing of herself to provide for her sons.
“She was my baby sister,” Martinez said. “I cared so much about her and [am proud of] the kind of woman she turned out to be.”
Growing up on St. Paul’s east side before the Martinez family moved to Cottage Grove when Tensia was a high schooler, his younger sister was “that classic girl that had Coke bottle glasses and an Easy Bake Oven,” her brother said. As she grew, so, too, did Tensia’s razor-sharp wit that produced so many laughs, Martinez said.
“Tensia was just a little fiery, fun thing,” he said. “She had the quickest comebacks. It was never something to hurt; it would be something to make you stop, and think and laugh at yourself.”
'A better life for boys’
Tensia met Chevel as a high school student in Cottage Grove. She later feared for her safety during their marriage, as evidenced by a 2011 call to police to report Chevel’s threats toward her.
An order for protection followed; it was rescinded about two months later, her brother said, after the couple reconciled when Tensia had become pregnant with the couple’s youngest child.
Hanson said her family harbored concerns for Tensia’s safety, too. They described Chevel as a controlling, manipulative, and at times verbally abusive and mentally unstable husband.
“[Tensia] wanted to help Chevel,” Martinez said. “She wanted to help him become a better man.”
Chevel’s father could not be reached for comment.
Despite the problems, her decision in October to end the marriage was a wrenching one for Tensia, her brother and uncle said. In the end, though, Tensia decided that getting herself and two sons out of the troubled marriage was the best thing for young Chavelo and Ace.
“She was trying to provide a better life for those boys,” Martinez said.
Tensia’s No. 1 concern at the time of her death had been finding work to support herself and her sons, her brother said. A physical fitness devotee, she was training to earn certification as a yoga instructor.
College was a possibility, too. She had studied at culinary school in Las Vegas before becoming pregnant with the couple’s first child. And — as a talented home baker who wowed her family with delectable desserts — Tensia had talked of owning her own bakery.
For a young mother emerging from a trying period in life, things were looking up.
“This world kind of lost some luster when she left,” Martinez said, remembering his sister, “because she made this world a better place.”