Crisis Center to honor victims with vigil

ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Safe Place of the Permian Basin and Crisis Center of West Texas will host the annual Interfaith Vigil, an interreligious ceremony remembering the loves of West Texans killed or allegedly killed by their partners and honoring those who have survived. 

The service will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 19 at Connection Church, located at 4241 Tanglewood Lane. The service will feature music as well as the reading of names of victims. Guests are encouraged to wear purple and stay after the event for refreshments.

The 2023 vigil will honor the lives of 20 West Texans killed, or allegedly killed, by a perpetrator of domestic violence or stalking in 2021, 2022, and 2023. These women and men lived in Andrews, Big Spring, Midland, Monahans, and Odessa. 

“Their deaths – perpetrated by current or former partners or stalkers – leave behind countless people who cared for them, including 35 children. All members of the community are welcomed to join these families, Crisis Center of West Texas, and Safe Place of the Permian Basin in remembrance of these individuals and with hope for a future without domestic violence,” the Crisis Center said in a news release. 

These are their stories:

Kristina Alvarado, 36

September 6, 2023- Alvarado was killed in her home in the 1600 block of Ridgecrest last month. Investigators said they arrived at the scene of a murder-suicide and found both Alvarado and a man, identified as 43-year-old William Silva, dead.

Madeline Pantoja, 20

May 20, 2023- Pantoja was first reported missing in early May by family and friends who said she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend, 24-year-old Mario Chacon Jr. Chacon was arrested 10 days after Pantoja disappeared and just hours after her body was found in a Midland field.

Her cause of death has not yet been revealed, but investigators searching her home said they saw a “dirty bucket of water” and a mop and noticed that the floor was “extremely sticky as it is when too much cleaning product is used”, an affidavit stated. Investigators also discovered that Pantoja’s bedspread was missing and found a dark red stain on a bedsheet. They also found a hole in the door leading into the bedroom, as well as a hole in the bathroom door, and found hair attached to the damaged doors.

Chacon has been charged with Murder and is currently in custody awaiting trial on a $3,000,000 bond in connection with her death.

Crystal Williams, 35

April 27, 2023- Odessa Police said Williams was shot and killed by a single gunshot wound to the head at the Faudree Ranch Apartments on April 28th. Almost two weeks later, OPD arrested and charged her ex-boyfriend, 31-year-old Larry Johnson, with murder in the first degree and tampering with evidence, a third degree felony.

Friends of the victim told investigators that she’d been in a dating relationship with Johnson at the time of her death and that the couple had been arguing.

Tameeka Jackson, 39

February 13, 2023- Jackson was pregnant when investigators said she shot and killed her at her place of employment. According to an affidavit, another Quick Track employee working alongside Jackson when she was shot, told investigators that Jackson and her boyfriend, later identified as 24-year-old Israel Yanez II, had been arguing about her pregnancy. 

Yanez has since been charged with Murder and is awaiting trial.

Jackson left behind five children who said they are “heartbroken” over their loss.

Mariela Galindo Lozano, 28

December 8, 2022- Investigators said 28-year-old Mariela Galindo Lozano was found dead from multiple stab wounds following a disturbance at Hometown Studios. 30-year-old Raven Robert Rodriguez has been arrested and charged with Murder in connection with her death.

Estrella Moreno, 19

September 16, 2022- Investigators said Moreno was allegedly shot and killed by 21-year-old Arturo Barraza. According to an affidavit, Barraza told investigators he and Moreno were traveling in a vehicle when he grabbed a firearm that was resting in the driver’s side door.

Barraza said he began waving his pistol back and forth, pointing it to the left and right, when the firearm discharged. Moreno was reportedly hit by a single round when the gun accidentally discharged.

Barraza has been charged with Manslaughter in connection with the case and is still awaiting trial.

Name Not Released, 37

August 20, 2022

Jennifer Bateman McDaniel, 40

July 15, 2022- Investigators said Jennifer was killed by her estranged husband, Brad McDaniel, in what was originally thought to be an attempted murder-suicide in which Brad accused Jennifer of pulling the trigger.

Brad was arrested and charged with Murder nearly a year after her death and is still awaiting trial. Family members said Jennifer endured “14-years of mental and emotional abuse” over the course of her marriage. 

Joe Abril, 58

June 18, 2022- Investigators said Abril was shot multiple times in the chest and once in the back of the head by his wife, Stephanie Diane Tuell. When police arrived at the couple’s home, they found Tuell in the front yard waiting for them to arrive. 

Investigators stated Tuell said, “I wish I was sorry, but I’m not.” She’s since been charged with Murder.

Yazmin Iniguez, 35

June 4, 2022- Iniguez was found at her Andrews home with life-threatening injuries; she was taken to an area hospital where she later died. Her husband, Raymond Fierro, has been charged with Murder in connection with her death. Family members said the couple had been married for just one year. 

Her mother, Julie Iniguez, said she wants people in violent relationships to seek help before it’s too late.

“As soon as you see a red flag, run and stay away from that,” Julie said. “The most important thing is to love yourself first before you can offer any of your love to anybody else.”

Pamela Brown Justice, 55

May 17, 2022- Justice was taken to Medical Center Hospital with serious injuries in May of last year. Her husband, Vitale Justice reportedly told hospital staff his wife was injured when she fell and that she’d fallen after having a “possible stroke”.

Vitale showed medical staff pictures of his wife on the floor and doctors noted that her injuries, serious head trauma and bruises all over her body, were not consistent with a fall, but rather seemed more like injuries from physical abuse.

When nurses started questioning Vitale about his wife’s condition, he stated he “had other things to do” and left the building. Vitale was arrested several months later and has been charged with Murder.

Cynthia Ann Mendoza, 46

May 16, 2022- Investigators said Mendoza was found dead of multiple stab wounds in an Odessa motel room.  Investigators said Mendoza and 46-year-old Jose Sarinana were caught on camera arguing as they entered their hotel room. Sarinana has been charged with Murder in connection with her death.

Family and friends of the victim said her death never should have happened. They told us Mendoza and her alleged killer were in a romantic relationship, and she was trying to “get away” from Sarinana in the days before her death.

Mendoza left three children behind.

Guadalupe Miranda, 68

April 9, 2022- Timothy Michael Geng, 58, has been charged with Murder in connection with Miranda’s death.

On April 9 of last year, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper in Zavala County tried to pull over Geng. However, Geng refused to stop, and a brief chase ended when Geng crashed. Geng was taken into custody following that chase.

Meanwhile, investigators in Big Spring received a call asking for a welfare check for Miranda. Officers with the Big Spring Police Department responded to the 1500 block of Vines where they found Miranda dead inside. Investigators searched the home for evidence and believed Geng to be responsible for her death.

Neighbors told a Big 2 News reporter that Miranda and Geng were in a romantic relationship and lived together in the home where she died.

Veronica Sanchez, 19

February 17, 2022- Veronica was shot and killed by a co-worker in a murder-suicide outside of a Bush’s Chicken, where the teen worked.

Her mother, Jennifer Sanchez, said Veronica and the teen accused of killing her were not involved in a romantic relationship, and merely worked together. Since the teen’s death, Jennifer has been advocating for change to help curb not only relationship violence, but violence in the workplace as well.

Just this year, lawmakers passed Veronica’s Law, a bill that mandates that every employee in Texas will have access to a toll-free number to call for help if they are in danger or are experiencing violence in the workplace. That toll-free number must be posted in every place of business in Texas by March 1. 

Arely Sotelo Navarrette, 37

January 8, 2022- On January 8, 2022, deputies with the Ector County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 11000 block of W Layla after someone called 911 to report a disturbance. Upon arrival, deputies entered the home and found Navarrette dead on the floor of the master bedroom.

Investigators said Samuel Adrian Chavira admitted to shooting Navarrette during an argument; he’s since been charged with Murder. 

Heather Hernandez Rodriguez, 28

November 11, 2021- The mother of three was shot and killed on 40th Street in Odessa in November of 2021. Rodriguez’s family said her ex-boyfriend crashed into her car outside of her home, blocking her in, before opening fire.

OPD said the gunman later turned the gun on himself.

Rodriguez’s family said she endured abuse at the hands of her killer and have since spoken out against domestic violence in an effort to encourage others to get help if they are in a similar situation.

“Start seeing those little red flags…It’s not okay that somebody is telling you what to do. It’s not okay that somebody is mad or jealous or controlling you or calling you 30 times a day. It’s not,” her cousin, Monica Franco said in an interview last year.

Saffire Armenta, 25

November 2, 2021- On November 2, 2021, the Midland County Sheriff’s Office and the Midland Fire Department responded to a call regarding a structure fire in the 5500 block if FM 1213. At the scene, they said they did not find any building on fire but did find a burning body. Days later, the body was identified as that of Armenta.

Sergio Antonio Cerna, 37, has since been charged with Capital Murder in connection with her death after investigators said they found multiple threatening texts from Cerna to Armenta.

An affidavit said one text said sent by Cerna said, “Your car is going to be burned down then you will be next”. In another text, Cerna told Armenta he wanted to see her “plead for your fingers and your life”.

Travae Jackson, 28

September 27, 2021- In 2021, Jackson was shot and killed at the Northridge Court Apartments complex, located on 3417 Midland Drive. Investigators later arrested Kionne Lewis in connection with her death; he’s facing multiple charges, including Capital Murder.

According to court records, Lewis made several threats toward Jackson before allegedly taking her life. In fact, Jackson had obtained a protective order against Lewis to keep him away, but investigators said he was caught on camera trespassing near her home before the shooting.

Maria Soto, 46

July 21, 2021- In July of 2021, Soto was found dead in the 1100 block of Lloyd Avenue in Big Spring. Investigators said she was murdered but did not disclose her cause of death.

Her daughters said their mom had ended a relationship with the suspect, Luis Hernandez Jr., about a month before her death. They said Hernandez “couldn’t understand that she no longer wanted to be with him” and called and texted Soto multiple times even after she ended things.

Hernandez has since been charged with Murder.

Jacob Ledward, 24

May 16, 2021- In May of 2021, officers with the Odessa Police Department responded to a home in the 2000 block of E 7th Street to conduct a welfare check and found 24-year-old Jacob Ledward dead from a gunshot wound. As part of the investigation, OPD said it was looking for Clara Ledward, Jacob’s wife, for questioning but she was nowhere to be found. She reportedly fled in the couple’s red Toyota Corolla.

In August of 2021, Clara was found in Ojinaga, Chihuahua Mexico and taken into custody by Mexican authorities after a confrontation with police. Clara was injured in a shoot-out but sustained only minor injuries and was extradited back to the US that same week.

Clara was sentence to 40 years in prison earlier this year after she admitted in court that she shot and killed her husband.

The Texas Advocacy Project said that statistics show one in three Texans will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average. One in four women and one in 13 men reported being a victim of stalking in their lifetime.

Domestic violence can come in many forms: controlling behavior, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and intimidation, isolation, verbal abuse, including coercion, threats, and blame, and financial abuse. The Odessa Police Department said the Power and Control wheel, pictured below, is a diagram that shows the multiple tactics that an abuser may use to keep the victim in a relationship. The department said the wheel is “instrumental to our understanding of how abusers operate”.

If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, help is available. You can call the Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-627-4747. To learn more about the Crisis Center of West Texas, visit this website.