PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - A Palm Springs woman and her two children are living "in-hiding", fearing for their lives, after the man closest to them allegedly threatened to kill them, at a Palm Springs middle school. It's been a family struggle for 18 years, but the victim is finally finding the strength to tell her story, in the hopes of starting a new life for her, her son and daughter.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and the images of bruises Veneta Nikilova suffered, after her common-law husband Bassam Raei allegedly threw things at her, show what can happen over and over again, when a woman feels like she doesn't have a voice. But now, Veneta says he has hurt her and their two kids for the last time.
After a hearing today, regarding a restraining order, Veneta declined to go on-camera, but in a statement to the court she said:
"For about 18 years I had to live with this man whom I'm not even married, out of fear and yes, it took me a long time to find the courage to step up for my freedom and the well-being of the kids, but when you are told constantly that you will be killed if you don't obey him, pretty much like a slave, I think that's understandable."
Veneta took the kids and went into hiding on September 2nd, while Bassam was out of town. The next night, when he returned home to find his family gone, he left this voicemail, in Bulgarian for Veneta, "If I come back and don't find you here tomorrow I will wait for you at the school and you'll see what happens then."
A half hour later, Veneta's mother left her this frantic message, after a call from Bassam, "That guy is crazy, crazy, crazy! He said bullet in the kids, bullet in you, in your head, bullet in his head. Where are you my little girl, where are you?"
Private Investigator, Luis Bolanos tells us, "In that phone call he asked the mother to pass the message on to her daughter saying that if she did not come home with the kids immediately, that he would go down to Raymond Cree Junior High with a gun and shoot both children, her and possibly himself and he was prepared to do that the following day."
Palm Springs PD was notified of the threat and Bassam was taken into custody within 20 minutes. His bail was increased to $250,000.00, but within a few days bail was dropped. We called the palm springs police department and they told us when they turned the case over to the D.A.'s office, it was rejected and sent back to them for further investigation. Bassam was released.
Bolanos says, "Unfortunately, the family and two children are still in hiding. They have a legitimate fear for their life."
Veneta went to investigator, Luis Bolanos to conduct a criminal investigation. He tells us Bassam was deported in 2008, for 9 months and now he uses this false international driver's license, with his brother's name and his own picture, originally obtained in Syria. On September 14th, Bassam was served with a substitute restraining order. At this morning's hearing on the restraining order, the judge ruled he has to be served again directly, but the original order is still in effect, while Veneta and her two kids wait for peace of mind.
Bolanos says, "She wants to make a change in her life. She wants to live."