Esme Barrera

A recent report from the Office of the Medical Examiner revealed more information about the suicide of James Loren Brown who is a suspect in several assaults as well as the Jan. 1 murder of Esme Barrera.

Brown died from asphyxiation by placing a plastic bag over his head, said Austin Police Department spokesman Anthony Hipolito.

“Mr. Brown’s DNA is linked to seven assaults as of right now,” Hipolito said. “Although DNA was not recovered from the homicide scene, Brown is still the prime suspect for ‘Murder One’ of Esme Barrera on New Year’s Day.”

He said APD has circumstantial evidence to connect Brown to the Jan. 1 murder of Barrera, an Austin resident and avid music fan. The investigation is still open and APD is exhausting all resources to further connect Brown to the homicide, although most of the DNA analysis has already been conducted, Hipolito said.

“The homicide unit will continue to look at all the evidence as we attempt to put the pieces of this puzzle together,” Hipolito said. “We are still fairly confident that Brown was involved in this incident and that he will remain the primary suspect.”

Police are currently investigating the break-in of a woman’s West Campus apartment that occurred yesterday at 4:18 a.m. as she was sleeping.

Upon waking up, the woman screamed, causing the intruder to flee the scene without making any attempt to attack the woman, said Austin Police Department spokesman Cpl. Anthony Hipolito.

APD arrived at the woman’s apartment at 2104 San Gabriel St. after she called 9-1-1, he said.

“She woke up to see someone at her bedside table, screamed and called 9-1-1,” Hipolito said.

APD does not know whether or not this attack is related to Esme Barrera’s Jan. 1 murder or the other December and January assaults, and it is too early in the investigation to be sure of anything, Hipolito said.

“The investigation is still very preliminary, and the woman was not able to give a description of her attacker,” Hipolito said.

The Police request that if anyone has information about the break-in they call CrimeStoppers at (512) 472-TIPS. 

Students practice Ving Tsun Kung Fu at the Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy Monday evening. Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy is offering two free months of WomensÂ’ Self Defense classes to women of sixteen years and older.

Photo Credit: Batli Joselevitz | Daily Texan Staff

Self-defense classes teach women not only to protect themselves with tasers and pepper spray, but also with their own body when those weapons fail them, said kung fu instructor Aaron “Moy 10 Tung” Vyvial.

His school, The Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy, will be offering free self-defense classes for women of all ages for the next two months to teach defense mechanisms that will help women be confident in their abilities but not overconfident to the point where they are unrealistic, Vyvial said. Vyvial launched the program in response to a series of December and January attacks in central Austin, including the Jan. 1 murder of 29-year-old Esme Barrera, a North Campus resident.

“What most martial arts programs teach is highly dangerous for women because you either have to be extremely athletic or skilled for it to work,” Vyvial said. “Most techniques do not apply to the average person, and if those techniques fail, it could actually escalate the issue and make it much worse.”

In a mugging situation, if the mace spray or taser gun a woman is carrying doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, she should always have a back up plan in place, Vyvial said.

“Your own body is still your last line of defense,” he said. ”This doesn’t replace your weapons, this is just what happens when they don’t work.”

Around 300 women have already signed up for the two-hour self-defense classes offered twice a week, which will teach mental and physical techniques to the average woman.

“The first hour is focused on mental strategies such as avoidance, awareness, de-escalation and body language,” Vyvial said.

The second hour teaches women ving tsun, a martial art specifically suited to women.

“Ving tsun doesn’t rely on size, strength or speed,” Vyvial said. “We have women who are in their 60s and 70s coming, so that’s proof that women of any size or shape can take the class.”

The UT Police Department offers a similar course, the Rape Aggression Defense System, or RAD, for students each semester.

“The reason students, friends and families decide to take the course is to be more aware of some of the things they can do protect themselves,” said RAD program coordinator Sgt. Laura Davis.

Both the Academy and the RAD program teach women to be powerful, confident and aware of their surroundings.

“It’s more than just a physical aspect,” Davis said. “We teach women to be empowering and to take preservative measures.”

Biology senior Carolina Gonzales is president of the Texas Wushu Club that practices the Wushu martial art through forms, weapons and fighting.

“Protecting ourselves is our innate animal instinct and women should always fight back,” Gonzales said. “However, women need to know how to fight back properly. Self-defense doesn’t just teach fighting techniques, it also teaches you how to become aware of your surroundings and most importantly, avoid a dangerous situation.”

In addition, Tom’s Tabooley Mediterranean Café is sponsoring a special event, “For the Love of Esme Self Defense Class,” presented by Dan Kiser of Austin Self Defense this Thursday at 4 p.m. Donations will be taken at the event and proceeds will go to Barrera’s family.

Printed on Tuesday January 24, 2012 as: Self-defense instructor hopes to help women of all ages, sizes