SAN ANTONIO – Sisters Megan Castro and Lauren Trussell are still living with grief every day. Their mother Gabriella Munivar, whose married name was Albright, was murdered by her husband on Sept. 2, 2020, in their Stone Oak home.
Gabriella never told her daughters that her relationship was abusive and now the sisters are sending a message of support to others struggling in their community.
“Our mom was the epitome of a mother,” Castro said. “She was really gentle, loving, a very safe place for us. Regardless of where mom was, that’s where home was for us.”
“When you would cry she would just hold you and comfort you,” Trussell said. “She would always answer our phone calls no matter what time of day, even if it was for something silly.”
Their family has owned one of the largest shops in the Historic Market Square for years, Gabriella was a beloved staple in the community.
“She would make friends with the tourists and customers coming in and send them gifts all over the country,” Trussell said. “She would keep in touch with them and become friends with them. That’s just how she was.”
As kids, Castro and Trussell never knew their mother had been in an abusive relationship with their father for 30 years.
“She was good at hiding it,” Castro said. “But it escalated to where she had to tell us because it was becoming physical.”
“Her version of it was, ‘Well that’s not for you girls to take care of. This is my problem.’ But we always thought if we had known sooner, she could have been happier and safer sooner,” Trussell said. “We were able to get her out of that situation.”
Gabriella divorced their father about seven years ago and remarried a man named Joseph Albright a couple of years later in 2014.
“They had known each other for three months,” Castro said. “From the get-go, we did not like him. It was just a gut feeling. But we wanted her to be happy.”
Experts report it’s common for abuse survivors to wind up in similar relationships, especially if they did not get help after their first abusive relationship. This time, Castro and Trussell didn’t find out until it was too late.
On the morning of Sept. 2, Gabriella missed an appointment and was not responding to texts, which her daughters said was very unlike her.
That’s why Castro went to her mom’s home in the 800 block of Windhurst on San Antonio’s North Side.
“I go to the back of the house and that’s when where I almost tripped over him,” Castro said.
Castro said she found her mother and Joseph Albright dead, both with gunshot wounds. She said there was still a gun in Joseph’s hand.
Investigators ruled it a murder-suicide and the medical examiner confirmed it thereafter.
“She was just so loving, giving and kind,” Trussell said. “How could something so horrifying happen to such a sweet person?”
As the sisters have learned more about domestic violence and levels of abuse, they realize there were red flags.
“Looking back, we can see that there were probably signs,” Castro said. “For example, she stopped hanging out with her friends. She saw us, her family, but only occasionally. And when she did, she would have to check in on the phone a lot with her husband. He always needed to know where she was.”
Castro and Trussell encouraged people to look for the small signs of isolation and control. They said to check on loved ones, ask questions, and offer help if you suspect something is not right.
“Tell somebody. Just because they’re not hitting you doesn’t mean that abuse isn’t happening,” Castro said. “It’s control, it’s verbal, emotional, manipulation and money too.”
Trussell said she wants victims of abuse to understand that they deserve more.
“Maybe if my mom had the opportunity to receive help, that she may not have been in this situation,” Trussell said. “If someone’s hearing this, you are worth getting help, you are worth being safe and happy.”