LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – The family of Rita Gutierrez-Garcia came together three years to the day she went missing, at the park where a bench is named in her honor, to decorate with flowers and to share memories. Police say the case remains under active investigation and they still have a suspect but continue to ask the public for information to find her.
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“Today is the hardest day because, you know, we still don’t have any answers,” said Diane Romero, Rita’s mother. “But that doesn’t say we’re not hoping and we’re not continuing to believe and have faith that she will be found.”
Garcia, a mother of three, was 34 years old when she was last seen near downtown Longmont around 2:30 a.m. on March 18, 2018 at a bar celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day. The past year has been especially difficult for the family since COVID-19 restrictions made it more of a challenge to gather and celebrate her life. The tradition of meeting at Thompson Park could not take place because groups were not allowed in covered spaces in March 2020, according to Romero.
“It’s completely different because you can’t mourn, you can’t mourn what’s not there to mourn,” she told CBS4 on Thursday.
The family tied flowers to the bench they had dedicated for her to signify the changing of seasons and the upcoming start of spring. They also placed flowers in a tree nearby and said a prayer as a family holding hands at that spot.READ MORE: Sally Strelecki, Woman Shot By Bullet Through Apartment Wall, Regains Consciousness And Defies Odds
“She is a mother, a daughter, a sister, she is an aunt and a cousin and a granddaughter,” Romero said.
Longmont police posted on its Facebook page for the anniversary of her disappearance to say the case is still an active investigation. The post said that Juan Jose Figueroa is still considered a suspect in the case. Crime Stoppers has a reward of $10,000 for information leading to an arrest of anyone involved in her disappearance or for the discovery of her remains.
If someone has information to share, they can call 303.774.3700 or email the Longmont Police Department at PoliceTipLine@longmontcolorado.gov, either way they can remain anonymous.
“We just want answers. That’s all, our family just wants to have answers,” her mother said.MORE NEWS: Colorado Governor Orders Flags Lowered On Tuesday After Death Of Firefighter Darcy Stallings