EDINBURG – After over 30 years of working with Hidalgo County, Deborah Marmolejo retired from her position as criminal investigator.
Marmolejo started in 1980 as a receptionist for the justice of the peace and then went on to work for District Attorney Rene Guerra. After a decade, Marmolejo attended the police academy in Harlingen.
"Working (at the DA's office) I had a lot of knowledge and experience already and he gave me the opportunity to go to the police academy. I appreciate that very much and will always thank him for it," Marmolejo said.
"It was funny because I was the only female in the police academy and everybody was a lot younger than I was since I decided to go later in my life... Being the only female, I was kind of scared with all these young guys and I had to go out there and exercise with them, but I kept up."
After the academy, Marmolejo began her work as a criminal investigator for the county, which is not as glamorous as television makes it out to be, she said.
"There are different criminal investigators working with the police department and with other bigger agencies, so it's quite possible that they might have a CSI Miami-type-thing but you don't get any analysis within 30 minutes of the show - it's not that pretty," she said.
"(Criminal investigation) is extensive work. There is a lot of paper; I don't see people in CSI Miami or L.A. Law running around in their suits preparing paperwork. There always has to be a paper trail, you have to dot your i's and cross your t's. You have someone out there in the field and there are investigators that need to prepare a case for court and read from what others have done. That's what our job at the DA's office is, to try to fix if something is wrong and tell them what we need.
During her career, Marmolejo strived to solve problems that she observed and go beyond her basic job duties.
"What I liked and enjoyed the most was trying to help the young children that came in as victims, or the women. A lot of battered women would come in and feel the need to withdraw charges against husbands or boyfriends. I always wanted to take the extra step and talk to them. It's very easy to take a statement, drop charges and go about your business but I took the time to talk to these women and making them aware of other avenues like counseling, especially if there were children in the home," Marmolejo remembered
The job did not come without frustration, however. Marmolejo said the revolving door of the court system could sometimes be a letdown.
"Crime had gotten worse - a lot worse - it doesn't matter what we did in the office, we can only have control of it so much, and there is so much of it out there," she said.
"When you have young adults coming through the system, 17 and above, it's disappointing that they have elected to do something not knowing that you can get prosecuted at 17 years old or younger through the juvenile system. It's disappointing that somebody can make one mistake and ruin their whole career."
Marmolejo said that while she is retiring from criminal investigating, her work is far from over.
"I'm not ready to retire per se, maybe take on another challenge in life...I love my work, love it, but I was there so long I realized that my family grew around me and I was there working all the time," said the grandmother of three.
Marmolejo's three children said that they are aware of the struggles that their mother has faced and the obstacles she has endured and are incredibly proud of her accomplishments.
"She's the most honest, hardworking person we know," said Cindy Marmolejo, who is the middle of the three children. "We're just glad to see her finally get a little bit of time for herself."
After taking a month or two to spend with her family, Marmolejo plans to do further work in the community and is considering talking to children in school about avoiding a life of crime or running for justice of the peace in the future.
"I feel that I would do well because I started off working for a justice of the peace and I know from the bottom up what can be done. I worked a lot with the jail and the preparation of paperwork so with my experience I feel I would do very well," Marmolejo said.
The former receptionist and now-retired criminal investigator attributed her 32-year span working for the county to the pride she takes in her work.
"You have to love your job and you have to want it to stay in one place for so long and dedicate yourself, that has to be coming from the heart."