ARLINGTON -- At an anniversary vigil outside the Arlington police station Wednesday, friends of Evelia Villa Valencia say they are frustrated that investigators seem no closer to finding her killer than they were a year ago.
On May 23, 2011, Valencia, 29, was found dead inside her east Arlington apartment just hours after walking two of her children to school. She was strangled, the Tarrant County medical examiner's office said four days later.
Arlington police say they have suspects but not enough evidence for an arrest.
"The right information hasn't been presented to us," Detective Lisa Wade said this week. "The case is being worked very hard. It's been worked hard for a year now, but it's still unsolved. There's still something out there we need."
She urged the public to come forward with any information.
Valencia was better known by the nickname "La Cachora," or "Little One," by friends and family. Lico Reyes, local director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he organized the vigil to raise awareness of the slaying.
"At her funeral, I promised her that I would do everything in my power to see that restitution was paid to her and her children," said Reyes, who knew Valencia for nearly 20 years.
"She was horrendously murdered and the culprit or culprits are still at large. I don't want this to become another cold case."
At Cooper and Division streets, Reyes and Esther Gaona released pink balloons in Valencia's memory and held up large photos of the slain mother.
"She deserves justice," said Gaona, who is godmother to Evelia's oldest son. "She deserves not to be forgotten."
Reyes continues to ask the FBI to investigate the Arlington Police Department's handling of the case. Reyes said he has not been granted a meeting with Police Chief Theron Bowman about the case.
Arlington police investigated 22 homicides last year.
Valencia's death is one of five open cases.
Shortly before her death, Valencia, a bartender, told family and friends that an Arlington police officer had been harassing her and making death threats. She filed a complaint against Jose Mejia, who reportedly came to her apartment in 2010 and forced her to take off all her clothes so he could search her for drugs.
Valencia told a Dallas attorney that the officer threatened to deport her and have Child Protective Services remove her children if she told anyone about that night. Other Hispanic women filed similar complaints with the LULAC chapter about the officer, Reyes said.
Mejia was fired on May 12, 2011, for policy violations including poor judgment, official oppression and conduct unbecoming an officer, police spokeswoman Tiara Richard said Wednesday.
Mejia has not been named as a suspect in the Valencia case.
"There was an officer who was terminated before this homicide occurred who was involved with her," Richard said.
Mejia, who dropped an appeal of his termination this month, could not be located Wednesday to comment.
On the afternoon of May 23, 2011, police were called to an apartment complex in the 2400 block of East Park Row Drive. Valencia's body was in her bedroom.
Her 3-month-old daughter was nearby, unharmed.
LULAC has criticized police for waiting four days to release information about their investigation. But Wade said it took that long for the medical examiner's office to rule that Valencia's death was "asphyxia by strangulation due to assault by another person."
The day before she died, Valencia went out to dinner with friends in Grand Prairie, Wade said. The next morning, on May 23, she got two children ready for school and returned to her apartment with the baby. An apartment employee called 911 that afternoon to report that she was dead, Wade said.
"It does not appear robbery was a motive," Wade said. "We're not ruling anything out."
Investigators continue to contact friends and family -- here and in Panama -- seeking any details that might help identify Valencia's killer.
"As insignificant or small as it may seem, we want them to come forward," Wade said.
The department has Spanish speakers available to help with tips, and officers are not concerned with people's immigration status, she said.
"Our concern is just to solve the case, not to investigate people's status in the country," Wade said.
Augustine Villa, Valencia's father, told Arlington police that he looks forward to the day his daughter's killer is arrested and convicted.
"I would feel happy. I would even cry of happiness," Villa said in a statement released by the department.
"I would never want anyone else to go through what I am going through. I would never wish this upon anyone, not even my worst enemy."
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578