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Family and friends shocked after pivotal Colorado Latino community leader Lucille Ruibal Rivera dies in murder-suicide

Son of mother killed recalls mother's history of becoming an activist for Latino community
Son of mother killed recalls mother's history of becoming an activist for Latino community 03:10

Lucille Ruibal Rivera was a leader in health care, co-founder of the Tepeyac Community Health Center, and vice-chair of the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council.

Her son, True Apodaca-Cobell spoke with CBS Colorado and said she was going through a breakup with her boyfriend, before he ended both of their lives in a murder-suicide in Northglenn over the weekend.

According to family and friends, this murder-suicide came as a shock to many because they never suspected Ruibal Rivera would be in a situation like this.

Family and friends remember Ruibal Rivera for her countless efforts to help others and tireless work in the community.

Family of Lucille Ruibal Rivera

She played such a vital role in the community from health care to the arts, many of those she touched including her friends and family are shocked to learn of her passing.

Apodaca-Cobell, the youngest son of Ruibal Rivera was not only surprised to hear of this news but devastated.

According to Apodaca-Cobell said there were not enough signs present that would lead him to believe this outcome would be a possibility.  


He reminisced on the last time he saw his mother.

"She handed me the keys and kissed me and said, 'go ahead and lock up, I'll see you later,' and that was it," Apodaca-Cobell said through tears. 

Unfortunately, there was no later. He describes his mother as a strong, ambitious and passionate woman.

"She had so many years of life and love to give to just be robbed of this is sending ripple effects throughout the community, not just here in Denver, but across the state," Apodaca-Cobell said. 

Ruibal Rivera leaves a legacy as a pillar of the Latino, Chicano/a community. Nearly 30 years ago, she helped open Clinica Tepeyac, now known as Tepeyac Community Health Center which provides access to health care to underserved communities.

Jim Garcia, Chief Executive Officer of the Tepeyac Community Health Center, adds this is a huge loss for the community.

When Garcia first envisioned opening a free clinic, Lucille was the manager of the Eastside Health Center for Denver Health.

"She literally helped us open our doors almost thirty years ago because she had and extensive background in health administration, plus she was so committed to the community that she was able to step right in and it became a labor of love for Lucille and all of us that were involved at the time," Garcia said. 

He agrees Ruibal Rivera has left her mark.

"Someone like Lucille who was involved in so much when it came to our community, it's just a huge loss and leaves a huge void for our community," Garcia said. 

As Vice Chair of the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council and member of the board for decades, she served as a mentor to many, including current Executive Director Brenda Gurule.

"It's been devastating, I still... It just doesn't seem real yet," Gurule said. 

She says Ruibal's death shines light on domestic violence in the Latino community and the issues some members within the board have encountered.

"Everybody is just so shocked, and we feel like it is a very important issue that needs to be addressed in our community," Gurule said. 

As Apodaca-Cobell plans his mother's funeral the week of Thanksgiving, he can't help but to be grateful for the time he had with her.

Family of Lucille Ruibal Rivera

"There is no doubt in any of our minds how much she loved us... I think that's universal for anybody who knew her," said Apodaca-Cobell.

Northglenn Police have confirmed a firearm was used in this incident.

Family members say Ruibal had a history of an on-and-off relationship with the man who killed her then took his own life.

Gurule adds this news hits their community even harder because the issue of domestic violence is no stranger to their community, prompting them to address this issue as a board and ensure their community members feel heard.

Domestic violence deaths in Colorado reached an all time high in 2022, with 2023 marking the second year in a row that Colorado broke that record.

According to a new analysis by the Colorado Attorney General's Office, 97% of domestic violence victims were women and 95% of perpetrators were male.


The 2022-2023 Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality review shows 37% of domestic violence fatalities are Latinx, which is disproportionate to the state's 22% population. 

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