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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Teacher’s Love Triangle Blamed for Death

PHOENIX (CN) - A high school student having a sexual affair with a teacher was stabbed to death in her home by a former student with whom she also was carrying on, the mother of the dead man claims in Maricopa County Court.

The mother claims the school let the teacher work even though she had been found in a compromising position 3 years before with the man - then a boy - who killed her son.

Placida Maldonado is the mother of the late Samuel Valdivia, who was stabbed to death on April 10, 2009. He was 19. Maldonado says her son was stabbed to death at the home of his teacher, Tamara Hofmann, and that the man who killed him, Sixto Balbuena, was Hoffman's "putative fiancé, former high school student and sexual partner."

The mother says that Hoffman, 48, "improperly used her superior position as an authority figure to assert undue influence over her students, sexually victimizing them."

The mother says that Balbuena called Hofmann from the U.S. Naval Base in El Centro, Calif., on April 9, 2009, to say he was on leave and was coming to see her. Later that night, Hofmann called the plaintiff's home. Maldonado says she took the call, and Hofmann told her she had to talk to her son about a baseball game the next day. The mother says she "gave the phone to Sammy and went to sleep. This was the last time Placida saw her son alive."

She says that "during the early morning hours of April 10, "Balbuena entered the Hofmann home through an unlocked door, grabbed a knife, went upstairs, and found Sammy with Hofmann. Balbuena brutally assaulted and stabbed Sammy, who was pronounced dead at approximately 3:23 a.m."

Maldonado adds: "Hofmann's relationship with Balbuena was documented and known to school officials."

The complaint continues: "On or about November 1, 2006, the Chandler Police discovered Hofmann and Balbuena in her car, parked in a residential area. When officers questioned the couple, they noticed that Balbuena had Hofmann's bra in his pocket.

"The incident was reported to the District; Hofmann was docked 10 days' pay and placed in an administrative job away from students. Hofmann retained her teaching certificate and job. Hofmann resigned in May 2007.

"Upon information and belief, Hofmann's resignation was a ruse orchestrated by the District and Hofmann that allowed Hofmann to continue teaching and interacting with students, as long as it was outside the District."

Hofmann accepted a job for the 2007-08 school year at El Dorado High School, a charter school run by The Leona Group, where she met Valdivia, then a junior. During the 2008-09 year, she asked that Valdivia be transferred into her class, and El Dorado complied, according to the complaint.

The mother sued the Tempe Union High School District, El Dorado High School, The Leona Group, Hofmann and her husband, Balbuena, the State of Arizona, the state Board of Education, and the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.

Although the complaint is not explicit, referring only to "the District," Hofmann apparently worked for the Tempe Union High School District before she moved to El Dorado. For instance, in describing the Nov. 1, 2006 incident in Hofmann's car, the complaint states only that "The incident was reported to the District".

The mother seeks punitive damages for wrongful death and negligence. Her lead counsel is J. Tyrrell Taber of Phoenix.

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