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Woman not giving up on justice in her brother’s slaying

September 12, 2018

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) — It’s been more than 20 years since Nora Ferrer’s younger brother, Alex Martinez, was gunned down in East Chicago’s Marktown neighborhood.

The pain of that loss turned Ferrer’s life upside down and tore her family apart.

“It’s a hurt,” Ferrer said, recalling the night Martinez died. “You love him so much, and all these years as a sister I protected him until this moment. There was nothing I could do. It was out of my hands. There was no turning back from that.”

A suspect, Javier Oropesa, was charged in 2009 with shooting Martinez in the chest, neck, arm and hand at close range.

“He never saw it coming,” Ferrer said of her brother, who was 20 years old at the time.

There were several theories about the motive for the killing, according to Lake Criminal Court records. One witness speculated Oropesa killed Martinez because he was jealous of him. Another thought it involved drugs, and another theory was that Oropesa thought Martinez robbed him.

Oropesa never has been arrested in connection with the murder charge.

Ferrer said there were rumors that Oropesa, who also went by Francisco Oropesa, for years traveled frequently between Mexico and Northwest Indiana. She last heard he could be living in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Shannon Robinson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force, said in 2016 an agent had been assigned to the case but declined to provide details about the investigation. Robinson did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.

Ferrer said she hasn’t heard from the Marshals Service in about a year, but she refuses to give up.

“I don’t want to wait any longer,” Ferrer said.

Martinez was five years younger than Ferrer.

She helped raise her little brother, a playful and loving kid who brought a lot of joy to the family.

“He called me Ma. Ma. No mom or mommy,” Ferrer said. “He lived with me growing up, too.”

Ferrer and her husband had helped Martinez get his GED and were encouraging him to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

“We were getting him prepped for the world,” she said.

Ferrer last saw her brother just before he was killed. Martinez was baby-sitting her son, and she arrived to pick the boy up. Before leaving, she and her brother hugged and said goodbye to each other.

She went home, put her children in bed and the phone rang. It was someone telling her Martinez had been shot.

She called St. Catherine Hospital twice, searching for her brother. On the third call, hospital staff told her a young man had just arrived. They confirmed it was Martinez.

Ferrer went to the hospital, but it was too late, she said. Martinez was already dead.

“They said they were working on him,” she said. “He fought for a whole hour. He didn’t want to leave this world.”

It didn’t take long before Ferrer learned of Oropesa’s identity.

“We didn’t have Facebook and stuff at the time,” she said. “It was more word of mouth.”

People told her what had been said, gave her messages from others who wanted her to know what happened. In those early years, she thought police failed to show her any compassion.

Her family drifted apart as she and her three other siblings each dealt with their grief alone, she said.

Oropesa was charged in 2009, more than 10 years after the killing. The breakthrough came after former Police Chief Gus Flores pledged to reopen the investigation, and another witness came forward, she said.

Ferrer formed a nonprofit group called A Sister’s Cry for Justice, which helped bring some healing to her family. Her mother got to speak about the immeasurable loss of losing a child to violence. Her father, who likely took some of his grief to the grave, came to understand they all were hurting.

“I had to find a voice in it all,” Ferrer said.

“It turned my life upside down. I was a young mom, trying to raise a family. There was a lot of grief. It was hard. I suffered a lot of emotional depression. If it wasn’t for my husband and my children, I don’t know how my life would have turned out. It was hurting that much.”

Through the nonprofit, Ferrer came to know other families affected by violence and even helped some of them find justice.

She still offers hope to other grieving families.

“You’ve got to be hopeful that your law enforcement are going to help you, that people are going to come around and give the information that they’re holding and somehow we get these guys off the street,” she said.

“We fight back. We don’t allow them to take our happiness and joy from our lives.”

Yet, Ferrer is still waiting for justice for her family.

“It was senseless,” she said of her brother’s killing.

“You’re waiting so long. So much time has passed, and he’s lived his life and there’s so much injustice here,” she said.

“It’s so hard knowing that things are left undone. You want what’s right. We do need closure. Who knows if this guy has done more harm to other families?”

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Source: The (Northwest Indiana) Times

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com

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