By Jamie Leary
THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Thornton police said Saturday they are still looking for the person who killed 16-year-old Haley Vargaz.
Investigators believe witnesses to the crime may be too afraid to come forward, and for the first time Haley’s mother is speaking out, hoping she can influence someone to have the courage to speak up.
“Somebody’s out there and knows something, saw something, and whoever’s mother that is, they know,” said Haley’s mother, Emelda Vargaz.
Haley was killed early Saturday, Sept. 17, outside of a house party on the 13000 block of Monaco Way.
Friends of Haley told CBS4 the party was cut short just before 2 a.m. Two sisters who did not want to be identified tried to keep Haley alive until police arrived.
“Some guy just started shooting in the house and everybody started running to their cars, and I saw a girl just fall in the middle of the street,” said one teen. “Nobody was helping her, so we just couldn’t leave her there by herself.”
Another teen stepped in and tried to save her.
“I grabbed my friend’s shirt and I just wrapped it around my hand and just put it over the wound to stop the bleeding,” said another teen, who did not want to be identified.
Haley’s mother says police came by around 3 a.m. Saturday morning to tell her that Haley had been shot. She rushed to the hospital, but it was already too late.
“They told me, ‘Your daughter was shot in the stomach and she died.’ That was the hardest thing to hear and deal with. I still am in disbelief but I saw her body yesterday and it was her,” said Emelda Vargaz.
Haley was a junior at Thornton High School. Emelda Vargaz says her daughter had many friends and was the type of girl who would do anything for anyone. Haley was also a volunteer at North Suburban Medical Center and wanted to work in the medical field.
This was the first year Emelda Vargaz agreed to let her daughter go to the Friday night homecoming festivities — as long as she was back by curfew. Emelda Vargaz says she keeps waiting for Haley to come in the door, or come up from her room.
“I can’t go downstairs. It’s hard. I tried once and just broke down. Hugging her pillows, hugging her towels. It’s horrible.”
It wasn’t long ago Haley found out she had won a painful battle with cancer. Emelda Vargaz says she can’t understand why this happened to her of all people.
“She was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 11, fought for 2 1/2 years, was in remission, survived it, and to end that battle this way … no words can describe how I feel.”
Her family is also angry, calling it a senseless act of violence. Police believe Haley was an unintended target. Emelda Vargaz wants justice.
“I think the parents really need to be strict with these kids, get them out of gangs, get them out of trouble. Why do you let them run around like this and do destructive stuff like this?” she said. “I’m very angry that this person isn’t caught. I’m hurt, I want this person. I want justice. I want at least a little peace in my heart when I bury my daughter.”
Police do have a vague suspect description. Investigators are looking for a Hispanic male in his late teens or early 20s. He is described as skinny and about 5-foot-6 with dark hair, a nostril ring and glasses.
They are also searching for two vehicles that may be connected to the crime. One is described as an older model black SUV, possibly a Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon or Cadillac Escalade. The other is a red four-door sedan made in the early or mid-1990s, possibly a Honda or Toyota.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Thornton police at 720-977-5069.
There is a GoFundMe page to help Haley’s mother and father cover funeral expenses.