(CBS4) – Since 2016, the Denver Police Department says 102 of 427 total homicide cases remain unsolved to this day. The family of one of those murder victims believes DPD should be doing more to bring justice to grieving families.
Angel de la Cruz, 27, was shot and dumped in the middle of the southbound off-ramp at I-25 and 20th Street in Denver on June 20, 2020. A passerby found his body and called police.
“In the middle, just thrown like it was nothing,” recalls Bernadette Martinez, his wife. “It’s just bizarre, it’s just crazy.”
Martinez says de la Cruz was a father of four, and they have three children together, who miss him every day.
“Hearing my son’s cry, when he’s praying to him, ‘saying stuff like why did you have to die, daddy?’ That just breaks my heart,” she said.
While Martinez says they were separated at the time of his death, she hasn’t stopped searching for answers about who murdered him.
“That’s right by Mile High stadium,” she said. “There’s cameras everywhere, and you can’t tell me you don’t have anything?”
Doing some investigative work herself, she even got a recording of someone who was in the car with de la Cruz the night he was shot, saying exactly who killed him and who saw it.
Martinez provided everything she found to police, but still no arrests have been made. She says the last time she spoke with a Denver Police detective, he told her, “Bernadette, I’m just going to tell you that they’re just high on drugs, and their story just keeps changing.”
That’s an excuse she still can’t believe.
“It’s not OK,” she said in tears. “You don’t get to ruin someone’s life forever and be OK with it because you’re high on drugs. It’s just ridiculous … you don’t get to just walk around and just say you don’t know, and it be OK.”
The de la Cruz case is one of 102 homicides in the last five years in Denver that haven’t been solved. Over the last five years, the number of murders has increased in Denver, as has the number of cases left unsolved.
So far this year, there have been 89 murder cases, and 26 of them still open.
Denver Police’s average murder case solving rate since 2016 is 76%. In 2020, it was 78%, and so far this year it’s only 71%. That’s still higher than the national rate of only 61%.
Regardless, Martinez believes Denver Police needs to turn up the heat.
“Why isn’t there anything? Anything that you can go off of? After everything we’ve done?” she said. “He was an important person and I will always make sure my children remember that, as well as everybody else, until there’s justice.”
Denver Police couldn’t comment about many specifics on the de la Cruz case, because they say it’s still an open investigation. Instead, police provided the following full written statement:
“At this time, the homicide investigation related to the death of Mr. De La Cruz remains open. We share the frustration Mr. De La Cruz’s family is experiencing as this case remains unresolved and we are actively working to identify and apprehend the offender(s) responsible for his death. The dedicated members of the Denver Police Department’s Homicide Unit have worked tirelessly on this case and it has gone through multiple reviews in an effort to generate actionable leads and move the investigation forward. All available resources continue to be utilized as we work to resolve this case. Recognizing we have only one opportunity to prosecute an offender, it is important to ensure that any case presented to the Denver District Attorney’s office for prosecution is the best case possible. Investigators know there are people in the community and associates of Mr. De La Cruz who have additional information about that case. This information will help solidify a criminal filing and future prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for Mr. De La Cruz’s death. Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP. You can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.”