Once targeted by racists, housing worker now loses daughter

Pilar Horton-Garcia, 33, a Berks County native, was found shot to death April 30 near railroad tracks in a remote area of northeast San Antonio. (Courtesy Photo/KSAT 12)
Pilar Horton-Garcia, 33, a Berks County native, was found shot to death April 30 near railroad tracks in a remote area of northeast San Antonio. (Courtesy Photo/KSAT 12)
Fair-housing advocate Bonnie Jouhari and her daughter spent years on the run from White supremacists who had launched a vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation in southeastern Pennsylvania. Hopscotching from state to state, Jouhari was unable to return to the career she loved, and her teenage daughter, Dani, became deeply depressed. A judge handed them a civil judgment of more than $1.1 million, which they couldn’t collect.Dani never got over the trauma, Jouhari says, and sank into substance abuse and homelessness after serving as an Army medic. In February, shortly before her 33rd birthday, Dani called her mother and said: “You made this mess for me. Can’t you help me get out of it?”Jouhari could not, and, this week, found herself burying her daughter.Pilar Danielle Horton-Garcia’s body was found last month in San Antonio, Texas, where police say she was shot in the head. Police have made no arrests but said Friday they continue to pursue leads.

For Jouhari, 59 and back in Pennsylvania after years away, Dani’s killing represents yet one more blow.

“She was so terribly angry at me,” Jouhari said. “This whole thing destroyed our relationship. She blamed me.”

Bonnie and Dani Jouhar (Courtesy Photo)i
Bonnie and Dani Jouhari (Courtesy Photo)

Life was different in 1998. Jouhari, who is White, worked at the Reading-Berks Human Relations Council, helping people file complaints under the Fair Housing Act and serving as a tester to ensure landlords and sellers were complying with antidiscrimination laws. She also founded a hate crimes task force.

Her daughter was a popular and motivated high school student, taking part in student government, the drama club, volleyball and track. She wanted to study at Penn State University and become an athletic trainer. She and her boyfriend planned to marry after high school.

But Jouhari’s fair-housing work had put her on the radar screen of Ryan Wilson, the leader of a neo-Nazi group called ALPHA HQ. Wilson posted a picture of her on the group’s website, calling her a “race traitor” who would “be hung from the neck from the nearest tree or lamp post.” An animation showed Jouhari’s office being blown up; the website described her biracial daughter as a “mongrel.”

Soon after, Jouhari began receiving as many as 30 threatening phone calls a day. A self-described “chaplain” to the Ku Klux Klan, Roy Frankhouser, broadcast the ALPHA HQ website on his public-access cable TV show, “White Forum,” and began sitting outside Jouhari’s office window for hours at a time, sometimes taking pictures.

Fearing for their lives, Jouhari and her daughter fled to the Seattle area, beginning an odyssey that would span more than a dozen moves and several states.

They tried keeping a low profile, but the harassment persisted.

“It would be OK for a couple of months, and they would find us again,” Jouhari said.

The ordeal made Dani hypervigilant, withdrawn and moody. A psychologist diagnosed her with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, according to court documents.

Jouhari’s former lawyer remembered Dani as an intelligent, witty and promising girl who battled demons that surfaced as a result of her unstable, fearful teenage years.

“These events had an indelible negative effect on her life, and I can’t help but believe that at least a substantial part of her downward spiral came from the chaos that resulted from the intimidation that took place back in Reading,” said Brian Levin, an attorney and hate crimes expert at California State University, San Bernardino.

A psychologist said Dani required years of intense counseling, which a judge took into account when, in 2000, he ordered Wilson to pay Jouhari and her daughter more than $1.1 million. Frankhouser, meanwhile, agreed to give the pair 10 percent of his income each year for a decade.

But neither man complied.

“We never got a dime during this entire thing from anybody,” Jouhari said.

Jouhari believes the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia, tasked with enforcing the judgment, should have done more. A spokeswoman declined to comment Friday.

Dani was buried with military honors on Tuesday at Washington Crossing National Cemetery outside Philadelphia. She leaves behind four daughters _ three in Texas and a teenager who lives with Jouhari.

Her mother said she has no doubt Dani would have taken a different path if she hadn’t been so abruptly uprooted and forced to live her teenage years in hiding.

“The more I think about it, the angrier it makes me that you can wreck a life,” Jouhari said. “I can’t go back and undo any of it. … Here she was, just barely 33, four children, and now gone.”

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