Remembering Manny Gonzales

Source: Linda Mitchell, BS , Questioned Documents Fellow

With deep sadness and loss, I share the passing of my friend, mentor, neighbor, and colleague, Manny Gonzales, BS. Manny was more than just a trainer to me; he was a warm, sincere, humble, and caring human being that I am fortunate to call my friend. Manny was an encyclopedia of forensic document examination (FDE) knowledge that he often demonstrated at Southwestern Association of Forensic Document Examiners (SWAFDE) trivia challenges. For every module in my training syllabus, he shared numerous first-hand stories of how to do it right and the consequences of doing it wrong. Some were funny, and some were quite serious, but I always hear those stories in my head when I mull over a challenging case. (Probably because he told his stories often as if it was the first time.) I will cherish the countless hours we spent in the lab while he selflessly offered his time to train this former "grapho" and pull her out of the darkness into the light.

For those who did not know him well, Manny began his career at the Riverside Sheriff Crime Lab under J.D. Perkiss, who passed in 2011. He later worked for the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services, where he credits his co-workers with teaching him the nuance of handwriting examination. Somewhere along the way, Manny and 16 other FDEs joined to become the charter members of SWAFDE. Manny also worked at the San Diego Police Department Crime Lab, where some of his best stories were born. After three years, Manny decided to make it on his own. He and another FDE were in a brief partnership, after which he opened a private practice in Rancho Bernardo, CA, and eventually relocated his office to Escondido, where he resided until his passing. Manny was an active trainer for ICITAP in Mexico and Latin America. He claims to have refined his Spanish on his many trips south. The experience caused him to accumulate a bounty of training materials which he used to train Dan Anderson (FBI) and me. (I learned my best Spanish words and phrases from his worksheets.)

After enlisting in the Marines at 17, Manny threw himself into becoming a Marine recon in Vietnam and an amateur bodybuilder. He was shot during a helicopter drop after less than two weeks in-country. The military brought him home, and he became a Criminal Investigation Department Officer. After a series of events and experiencing the world, Manny tracked down and married his elementary school sweetheart from El Paso, Texas. His wife, Juanita, has been his constant companion ever since. Together, they adopted a son, Matthew David, Jr. Manny has been a devoted father to his special needs son; Junior and Manny have been inseparable for decades. Another interesting fact…Manny was a member of the United States Parachute Association. He and his Hispanic friends were the skydivers who formed the big rings in the sky over Lake Perris and other places.

In these latter years, Manny tried to slow down his practice to spend some time with his family. He enjoyed flying his drone and taking an occasional private case to keep his mind sharp. Because of him, I will never forget that we cannot always please everyone and that I cannot make chicken soup out of chicken feathers.

Manny's ashes will be interred at the Mira Mar National Cemetery in San Diego, CA.

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