Posted on January 27, 2005

Tragedy on the Rails

Richard Winton and Jill Leovy, Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2005

Juan Manuel Alvarez’s troubles had been building long before he drove his Jeep Cherokee onto the train tracks in an aborted suicide attempt that derailed two commuter trains and killed 11 people, according to family members, acquaintances and court records.

Alvarez, a pony-tailed sometime construction worker, had been separated from his wife for several months amid allegations that he had threatened her and her family.

Carmelita Alvarez alleged that drug use had addled his mind, according to court papers she filed in support of a restraining order. She described him as a jealous man possessed by paranoid fantasies that she was cheating.


He and Carmelita met in Los Angeles about six years ago, said Carmelita’s brother Ruben Ochoa, 26.

At that time, Alvarez was not working much, said Sergio Lopez, who manages an apartment complex in Bell where the couple had lived for several months.

But he played traditional drums used in ancient Mexican Indian ceremonies.

Lopez said Alvarez was in a group that performed such ceremonies in Aztec costume — headdresses, loincloths and sandals with bells.

When Alvarez’s son was born, the couple gave him the middle name Nezahualcoyotl. The name is taken from a pre-Columbian warrior-poet and a Mexican city.