Salinas has hundreds of unsolved murders. For the victims’ families, the wait for justice can be unbearable. So this month, a group of moms who lost their children launched a new website. They hope it will renew interest in their cases.
Outside Salinas City Hall, more than 30 mothers and family members lock arms in prayer. Each has a murdered loved one. Each of their cases is unsolved.
Renee Salizar holds a picture of her son Christian Rosales. He was shot while walking home from a party on January 1 of this year.
“I don’t see how any person could live with themselves. I mean as a human being to know something and not say anything is wrong. There needs to be more compassion, more love for one another,” says Salizar.
Debbie Aguilar lost her son Stephen 15 years ago. He was killed in a drive by shooting while returning home from 7-11.
“And that was my baby, and I loved him. When somebody does wrong to your child. We go overboard to make it right,” says Aguilar.
To make it right, these families launched a new website called coldcasecampaign.com. They hope it will generate new leads and renewed interest in their cold cases.
So far, it features the stories of 21 Monterey County murder victims. Aguilar is inviting other families to add their stories. Initially, families will be able to do that for free. But beginning in 2018, there will be a fee: $19.99 a month or $199 a year.
She says all of the money will go toward helping solve these cold cases. The group hopes to hire professionals who could review the case files. Also, they want to create a reward fund that will inspire witnesses to come forward.
“We know that money talks. And when they know there are resources out there, they’re going to want to help us,” Aguilar says.
Her other son, Christopher, was around a year old when his brother died. He’s hopeful the website will work, but also understands what they’re up against.
“To be honest, in the street life, like, people can’t like snitch and stuff. They don’t want to get caught up in that type of stuff. Cause by you telling on somebody else, it could cost you a beating or take your life. It’s just crazy,” Christopher Aguilar says.
According to Salinas Police Department records dating back to 1980, the city has 325 unsolved murders. 215 of those are cold cases, which means without new information or evidence, the cases are stuck.
Salinas Police Commander Stan Cooper oversees the department’s investigations division. He says people ‘not talking’ is part of the problem.
“Ultimately, that’s what creates the circle of violence, right? If we don’t have people stepping up and doing quote the right thing, that allows the person who did the crime to continue to victimize others,” Cooper says.
Commander Cooper says on that long list of unsolved murders they have some suspects, just not enough evidence.
“Those are the frustrating ones because sometimes you are very, very close, but very, very close doesn’t count when it comes to the judicial system,” Cooper says.
So he says they work to build other cases against those suspects. He points to a multi-year investigation called Operation Day Break. Back in 2015, police arrested nine suspected gang members and associates on charges ranging from robbery to murder. And they believe these guys are responsible for other crimes.
“In that case in particular, we have a lot of people turning against each other. And we’ve got a number of old, cold homicides that we are making some headway on, and we are hoping within the next year we’ll be able to go public with a little bit more of that,” says Cooper.
Commander Cooper says they’ll follow up on any lead that comes in, so he welcomes any tips generated from the mothers’ new website.
Back out in front of City Hall, Debbie Aguilar says coldcasecampaign.com is about hope.
“It’s part of the healing process. They can heal if some of these families get their justice, they can have that peace. You have to have something. You’ve gotta have hope,” Aguilar says.
The hope is the stories on the website will inspire people to come forward with information to get these cold cases solved.