Remains of two found in Gilroy buried in Mexico

Gilroy
– Two unknown men who were found killed in Gilroy in 1997 are
now interred in Michoacan, Mexico.
After more than seven years of searching, testing DNA, and
publicizing the unsolved homicides, the possibility that the men’s
remains would be claimed dwindled, said the woman responsible for
their burial.
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – Two unknown men who were found killed in Gilroy in 1997 are now interred in Michoacan, Mexico.

After more than seven years of searching, testing DNA, and publicizing the unsolved homicides, the possibility that the men’s remains would be claimed dwindled, said the woman responsible for their burial.

Esperanza Zendejas, superintendent of East Side Union High School District in San Jose, flew to her native Mexico this past weekend and saw the men buried in her family’s plot there Sunday morning.

“They had an all-night vigil the night before, which is customary in the town,” Zendejas said. “And then the following morning, they had the church ceremony, and then (the men) were buried.”

Zendejas wanted to bring the men – who an expert determined were from Mexico, based on their dental records – as close to home as possible so they would not go unnoticed, she said.

“It’s a very strong likelihood that these are Mexican immigrants,” she said.

Referencing the fact that some Mexican families have relatives who immigrate for work and then go missing, Zendejas said: “These types of stories continuously take place.”

When she first heard about the two men whose badly decomposed bodies were found near the Gilroy sewer plant in the summer of 1997, Zendejas said she was struck.

“They died so tragically,” she said. “When I saw them at the morgue, their bodies were almost defiant. … At the airport in Guadalajara … their bodies, you could tell through the bags, they were much more relaxed. There was a sense of peace.”

Zendejas said her pursuit to obtain the remains of the two men began after reading a San Jose Mercury News article last summer that reported the coroner’s office was preparing to have them cremated.

Authorities have kept portions of the remains in case additional DNA samples are needed, although that is unlikely, Gilroy police said.

Her choice, Zendejas said, was to either allow the men to be cremated and unclaimed, or to give them a final resting place.

“The county would not have released the remains if there were leads that may produce family,” Zendejas said.

She at first tried to adopt the men, but found that was not allowed. The Mexican Consulate in San Jose had the authority to take the men’s remains, and handed them over to Zendejas.

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