11 years after brother’s Christmastime murder, McAllen woman still searching for justice

McALLEN — It’s less than a week before Christmas and Elizabeth Garza sits inside her modest home here and flips through a thick, white binder.

Filled with the business cards of the investigators who have been promising to bring her brother’s killer to justice, the binder contains items she’s collected that she believes are crucial to his case, and personal mementos of her brother, like the wallet he was carrying the day he was shot.

The binder is a testament to her determination all these years after his death.

This Christmas will mark the 11th time that Garza and her husband celebrate without Walton Sanchez — “Pinky,” as his family called him.

On Dec. 23, 2008, Sanchez was shot to death as he sat in the front of a friend’s house in Mission. He was only 48 years old.

Despite efforts from investigators with the Mission Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Garza’s own attempts at finding the person responsible for his death, the incident remains unsolved all these years later.

Garza is anguished by this fact as she marked the days until another Dec. 23 — the day that changed her family forever.

The 69-year-old woman has decorated her home in traditional fashion, red and white bows throughout the home, conveying the cheerful holiday spirit you’d expect in any home this time of the year.

But there’s something missing, all the decorations and Christmas-themed ambiance of the home and yet the Garza’s Christmas tree remains packed away in a box in a storage patio area in the back of the home.

“I don’t know why but I just can’t get myself to put it up this year,” Garza said as she disappointedly shook her head. “I don’t know why this year. My heart, it hurts.”

It’s apparent that the very sight of the tree, and a small white reindeer decoration that sits beside it, elicits strong feelings in Garza as she endures another holiday season without the sibling she still refers to as her “baby brother.”

A binder containing information Elizabeth Garza has accumulated throughout the years shows her youngest brother, Walton “Pinky” Sanchez, on Dec. 17. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

That’s because in a lot of ways Garza, 10 years her brother’s senior, did raise Pinky.

She recounts the comments Pinky got when she dressed him up in a shirt and tie for the first day of school when Pinky was very young.

But Pinky was 13 years old, Garza said, when he was the victim of police brutality, suffering severe head trauma during the assault.

The result, Garza said, was life-long seizures that left him unable to get and keep jobs, which only led to more run-ins with the law.

She said that they were raised to respect law enforcement; but these days she remains frustrated with Mission police, who have yet to name a suspect in Pinky’s homicide all these years later.

She’s lost count of the different investigators who worked the case; she says it’s well more than 20 who have said in one way or another they would solve the case, but have not been able to do so.

Last year, for a brief time in September, there was a glimpse of hope — she said she received a call from an investigator stating that they were working a lead, and then, silence.

Despite this, Garza remains steadfast, determined more than ever to continue looking for answers.

Yet, she can’t shake her sadness during the holiday, as she recounts how Pinky was a kind-hearted man who loved Christmas and loved being around his family.

But when asked why this year, of all the other Christmas celebrations that have passed without her baby brother, what’s different about this year, and her reluctance to put up the tree.

Garza struggles with this question; in fact, she never really answers it, but to say that she’s been going to a support group since April, which is for the first time in more than 11 years.

Back in the patio area of Garza’s home, she stands over the Christmas tree, she smiles talking about how Pinky would come over and hug her; spend time with them, her favorite memory of her brother, she said.

“It’s helping in talking about it more, expressing yourself, crying, somebody consoles you, and try to give each other the strength,” Garza said. “It’s helped me, but I cannot put up the Christmas tree, not yet.”

Anyone with information regarding Pinky’s shooting death can call (956) 624-2551.

lzazueta@themonitor.com