For Legal Reasons, A Wife Fights To Be A Widow

November 09, 2016
Michel Marizco
Alicia and Ignacio Jimenez's daughter looks through their wedding album.
Michel Marizco
Michel Marizco
Michel Marizco

At 2:45 in the afternoon, on Nov. 23, 2013, Ignacio Jimenez crossed the border from Douglas Arizona into Agua Prieta, Mexico. His family never saw him again.

It’s been three years and his wife Alicia Jimenez said she realized pretty quickly that her husband had disappeared for good.

"You’re never going ot believe this. But the next day. Something came out of my heart and I felt it. Eight o'clock in the night," Jimenez said.

And now Jimenez needs to have her husband declared legally dead so she can collect Social Security.

By all accounts, Ignacio Jimenez led an unremarkable life: no criminal issues, he held a security clearance to work on the Fort Huachuca Army base as a janitor, the family owned a modest home in Sierra Vista, he drew an honest five figure salary. But at some point, facing a government furlough, Ignacio Jimenez made a deicsion.

Alicia Jimenez pieced it together with his family.

"I found out the next day when his brother told me he talked to him around 6 p.m. He told him 'hey, I’m just going to AP and I’m gonna be back and it’s gonna be soemthing in and out and I’m gonna make a little bit of money.' That’s all he say," Jimenez said.

Now she’ll have to convince a judge in Cochise County that he’s dead.

Under Arizona law, the family must wait five years and one day after a person disappears to declare them legally deceased.

Jimenez’s attorney, Tom Asimou, argues enough time has already passed, and wants the five-year rule waived.

"Imminent peril is what the case law talks about," Asimou said. "Under the facts and circumstances of Ignacio Jimenez, going into Agua Prieta under the circumstances that he did with the testimony that we’re going to get from law enforcement, that is imminent peril."

In this case, Asimou argues that the peril involves driving into Mexico looking to make some cash, and then disappearing.

It’s the first case Asimou’s seen in Arizona where litigation for the missing is built on a case in a country from where so many have disappeared.

Two years ago, 43 students disappeared in Mexico all at once. Journalists have gone missing and entire families have disappeared along the border. Mass graves holding as many as 70 people have been found on the Mexican side of the border, identities of the corpses unknown.

Two of the Jimenez children crawl up onto their mother, who is lying in her bed. She’s not feeling well and pregnant with her seventh child, this one with her new husband.

Jimenez started the paperwork when she ran out of money to take care of their children and lost their home.

"So let me tell you," Jimenez said. "I called Chase. I said 'Hey, my husband went missing what can I do? Can you put me a forbearance? Can you put me on this?' 'No, his case don’t apply. He needs to sign a quick claim deed. You need to divorce him. Get a divorce decree.'"

And with the situation growing more tense, Jimeenz avoided legal fees.

"You either feed your kids or go pay a lawyer."

Asimou’s law firm took her case on pro bono.

“If you’ve got Alicia Jiimenez and her six children affected imagine his parents. Imagine the ancillary people, the mushroom effect that it has on everybody else that is ancillary involved with those people."

The Jimenez’s will present their case to a judge in Bisbee in early December.