MANATEE -- A decade after her daughter was gunned down in Oneco, a Bradenton woman now must cope with the news that detectives believe the shooter has been gunned down himself in Honduras.
Juanita Martinez’s 20-year-old daughter, Rebecca, was shot six times on March 20, 2001, leaving, among many relatives, her then 5-month-old daughter, Mya Esabel Martinez.
Deputies with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office believe the man who killed Rebecca Martinez was her former boyfriend, Jose Luis Alvarez, who last September was shot to death in Honduras in a drug-related crime, said Dave Bristow, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
The FBI this week confirmed that Alvarez was dead, allowing the sheriff’s office to close the case.
“I feel sad there was no justice because I wanted him to sit in jail and think about what he did,” Martinez said Thursday. “But now that he’s dead, I hope, for his soul, he asked forgiveness from God for killing my daughter.”
Officials with the sheriff’s office believe Alvarez left the United States shortly after the shooting and made his way to Honduras.
The fingerprints of the man killed in Honduras matched those on file for Alvarez, who went by the alias Jorge Alberto Alvarez in Honduras, Bristow said.
“This has been a long time coming,” Bristow said. “Apparently, Rebecca went over to his apartment and they got into an argument about child support for their daughter and he killed Rebecca. We had a lot of good evidence that pointed to Alvarez.”
Juanita Martinez cried Thursday when speaking about Rebecca, who would now be 30.
“She was a hard-working girl who started working at age 16,” Martinez said of her late daughter, the only girl she had along with six boys. “She liked to go out, but she knew when to come home.”
Martinez doesn’t agree that her daughter had gone to Alvarez’s apartment in the 6100 block of 15th Street East that night to ask for child support or money for diapers or milk, as some have said.
“She didn’t need money,” Martinez said. “She had a job with a check-cashing place paying $10 an hour and had her own car and bank account. She went over there just to tell him that he needed to be in his daughter’s life. We told her, ‘Don’t go near that man, we don’t need anything from him. Whatever you need, we can help you raise that girl.’
“But she said, ‘No, my daughter needs to know her father.’ She went over there and he killed her.”
Juanita Martinez has raised her granddaughter, now 10.
“Mya is a happy little girl who has grown up with six uncles that she calls her brothers,” Martinez said. “She’s like a little momma to all the little kids she meets.”
Juanita Martinez had held out hope over the past 10 years that Alvarez would be brought to justice. But the sheriff’s office could never bring him in.
“It was hard on me,” Martinez said. “I would think, ‘Why is it taking so long? Everyone else gets caught real quick.’
“But I believe that Honduras has laws that make it difficult to extradite. I know the deputies here tried their best to bring him back.”
Martinez’ sons want to see images of the dead man so they can get closure.
“They want to see pictures of the guy that got killed,” Martinez said. “I know they said there are some DNA matches. But we want to see the pictures.”
Several detectives have kept in touch with Martinez throughout the past decade, she said.
“I’ve told people I know that even if they did bring him to justice, it wouldn’t bring back Rebecca,” Martinez said. “I started going to church recently and because of that, I forgive my daughter’s killer. If I get mad, I won’t be a person who can help others. I have to forgive. I just hope now he has peace with God because if he doesn’t only God knows where he is going.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.