My name is Melanie Haynes and I am a Peoria resident. I was born and raised in the Phoenix, Arizona area for my entire life. In 2007, I was involved in a home invasion with my family. When I went to bed, I knew nothing of the criminal justice system, but I woke up in the thick of it. And that is how I met Gina Godbehere.
Gina became my family’s angel. I call her our angel. We were involved in a really traumatic home invasion where four men broke down the door where my girls were sleeping… they were ages five and nine at the time. We were lucky enough to make it out alive. They did beat my dad up in front of our family and they held us all hostage at gunpoint. But, by the grace of God, we did we make it out of that alive.
That was just the start of our education. We didn’t have any idea for 13 months who these people were. So we had to go through the process of them being caught… once they were finally caught. I had no idea how challenging that would be, and it began the court process.
My first memory of meeting Gina was at her office. We sat down with her and I remember she introduced herself. I instantly felt a warmth come over me… she was just very caring. You could tell she had a compassion for our family and for what we had gone through. She truly felt it at a deep level, and we felt very listened to. She took the time to hear our story, hear our heartbreak and to understand exactly where it was that we were coming from.d And that was our first interaction.
Gina was always right there for us every time that the suspect was in court, always by our side, explaining the entire process to us because so much of it was foreign to us. Like I said, I had never even stepped foot in court, so this was all completely new. She would let us know what the process was going to be, what each meeting was going to be like. Gina gave us the opportunity to choose if we wanted to be there or not. I never felt stripped of my rights as a victim. I always felt empowered that I had the right to be there. I had the right to face him if I wanted to face him, and she always made that very available.
I definitely feel like our voices were heard. I’ve heard other people go through the court process that did not have the experience I had. So I really attribute that to her and her professionalism. She definitely took the time to hear us and she fought for us as if she were fighting for her own family.
When you go through something like that, you feel like you’re never going to be the same again, and in many ways we aren’t the same. However, I feel like we’re the better for going through what we went through because we had people like Gina there to help us.
I knew that whatever the end result was, Gina was going to go for the max that the court would allow her to do. I had complete confidence in that. I knew that she wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything. She was going to make sure that she got everything that she could in our situation. I actually had a family member who was murdered about three months after this happened to us. It was a horrible situation, she was murdered in front of her kids. That person only got three years longer than what the criminal got for breaking into our house.
That really opened my eyes to how good of a prosecutor Gina was on our behalf. So many people get off for little things, but Gina stood firm. The healing part of it is you don’t ever feel like you’re going to be the same. It definitely took time, but as a victim, I feel that justice had been served.
We felt like we could put that part of our story to rest and begin to work on our healing, just knowing that somebody was paying for what they actually did to our family. It just brings about a lot of peace.
One of the processes that I remember so vividly was our victim’s statements and having the opportunity to stand up and to read those. It was very rattling to have to stand up there and speak to this person that has hurt you so badly. Gina just would come and put her arm around us, which brought a comforting feeling that instantly happened.
One of the things that sticks out so much in my mind was several years later, when my father became very sick and ended up passing away. I had to do the eulogy at his funeral. It was hard. There was, you know, probably 300 people there and I got up and I didn’t know how I was going to get through it. I just remember looking into the people sitting in the audience and I saw Gina sitting there and that warmth came over me again. If that’s not a testament to how she is – she didn’t have to be there. She wasn’t required to be in court, but she still cared about us and she cared about our family deeply. That made a huge impact on me.
My dad was kind of a mess, at first, it was a really hard thing. He felt it on all levels. Obviously, my dad was being protective of our family, me and my husband and my kids. He had to protect his wife. He was trying to protect his own life since he was beat by the defendant. He also had his grandchildren and his daughter there. So it was kind of everybody that meant the world to him that he felt he needed to protect. He had a really difficult time afterwards. At times I never thought my dad was going to be the same again, but his relationship with Gina was, it was actually really inspiring to watch. Gina had such respect for my father and gave him that respect. He wouldn’t go to counseling, but Gina was kind of a replacement for counseling for him. He would go off on his tangents and be able to tell his story and process that. Gina just let him do that. She let him take the time to do that. She never cut him short. Gina allowed him to have time that he needed to tell his story so that he felt like he had been heard.
I was able to reach out to Gina, even now, all these years later. This happened in 2008 and she still was willing to reach across the lines and help me and, and contact people or departments and different things that she was able to do. She was still was interested in getting me help and the support I needed. I’ve never felt deserted. I always felt like I could call on her and she would be there. Right now the person who did this is scheduled to get out in 2023. It’ll be interesting for our family, especially for my girls. They were nine and five when this happened and they’re now 22 and 26. So it’s interesting for them. It’s interesting for us, but I have full confidence that anything that could be helped on that end, Gina will still be fighting for us.
Gina didn’t just wipe her hands of our case. It wasn’t like, okay, that case is closed. I did what I could. I would suppose that in her line of work, there could be a coldness that would come over you just to do your job and then move on to the next one. It would be hard to get emotionally wrapped up. I really did feel like Gina cared for our family and cared what happens to us.
You know, Gina still reaches out every once in a while and asks how my girls are doing and still checks up on us. I just can’t say enough good things about somebody like that. That’s nothing that can be taught in a law school. That’s somebody’s heart. And that is exactly what I think that position needs in the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, somebody who is passionate about the victims and their rights.
I got really excited that somebody as awesome as Gina was stepping up into position. I’ve never been a super political person, but I’ve kind of started to become one. Now I realize the importance of a position like that. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that before we went through our situation, I kind of skimmed over the judges. I kind of left that to people who knew what they were talking about. I never even paid much attention to it. I’m kind of ashamed to say that now, but that is most important part on the ballot to me. I actually am able to reach out to Gina and get her opinion on different judges, since she is in the courtroom. That’s been really helpful. She never tells me how to vote, but she’ll just tell me, ‘I’ve had good experiences or whatever.’
We need good judges and we need good prosecutors because our police are out there doing their job. If the prosecutors aren’t doing their job, then it it’s all for nothing. We need to get these criminals off the street so that they know that they’ve got somebody in there that is going to prosecute and prosecute to the full extent so that it deters crime.
I look at these other cities and I think I don’t want Phoenix to become like that. I was very excited that she was running and that it was somebody that I could really throw my weight behind and support. I will do whatever I can to help somebody like Gina get elected because she’s more than deserving.
I always just say it’s by the grace of God we were there because I don’t think my parents would still be here. I believe that out of every bad, horrible situation good comes from it.
When this first happened, I pulled my girls into me when we were still at my parents’ house. I think the police were still there and I said to my girls, this happened to us, but it will not become us. I said we are still the same people and we’re not going to become victims. Yep. Gina was really passionate about that too. It’s definitely part of our story and I, we try to use it for good. We don’t dwell on it. It’s just, it’s part of what our life was. And it was an unfortunate part of our life, but I’m grateful for the good things that it did bring along the way. Like I said, Gina was definitely one of those good things.
One of the cool things is that my girls were never in the courtroom. Obviously we kind of protected them from that. We never ended up having to actually go to court. He agreed to take a plea. We just decided as a family, that that was better than driving my girls through that again. Cause they would have to take a stand, but even when we thought maybe one of our daughters would have to take the stand, Gina had already set up a dog to sit right next to her and to comfort her and everything else.
The first time Gina actually got to see my girls, I could introduce them. This was our daughter who was five years old at the time, and this was our daughter who was nine years old. She just gave them the biggest hugs. It was just kind of a full circle moment. We need people like Gina in the Prosecutor’s office. Like I said, I am not a political person. I am not a professional person to sit down and talk with, but anything I can do to help her, and to share our story of a real person that went through a home robbery and experienced things with her. It’s not just somebody up there throwing around promises, saying I’m going to do A, B and C. I lived it, Gina did A, B and C and she continues to do the rest.
That’s not expected effort. It’s not part of her job. That is just part of her heart.