Widow of Oakland hiker speaks at church service commemorating one year since murder

- David Ruenzel’s widow spoke out publically for the first time in honor of her husband on the upcoming one-year anniversary of his shooting death. On Sunday, Nancy Aldrich-Ruenzel said at the special service held at Oakland’s Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church that it’s only recently that the “light” has crept back into her family’s life.

The popular 60-year-old teacher was gunned down November 25th, 2014 while he was hiking at Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve in the East Bay. The service was held with the support of East Bay Regional Park District Police Department.

"Thousands of innocent loved ones die annually simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While we mourn our loss, we mourn all such senseless losses and injustices everywhere in this country and the world, and we pray for a return to humanity and civility and justice,” said Mrs. Aldrich-Ruenzel. “Our hope is to bring attention to this so we can help other families, and to encourage witnesses to come forward to save future lives.”

On the afternoon he was murdered, Mr. Ruenzel stopped at a local grocery store to buy fish for a family dinner. He dropped his groceries off at home and then decided to go for a quick hike. Officials say he parked at the trailhead near Skyline Boulevard and Elverton Drive about three-quarters of a mile down the Huckleberry Path. He was fatally shot by two assailants around 3:30 p.m.

Police believe the suspects were already in the park and did not follow him there. The suspects took Ruenzel’s wallet and a third suspect, captured on surveillance video, attempted to use his ATM card at several Oakland banks, but police don’t believe robbery was the motive for the attack.

Hikers found Ruenzel’s body not long after the shooting. Police said the suspects stopped to speak to two separate park visitors before fleeing.

"There are some people out there who know what happened and know who did this," said East Bay Regional Parks spokeswoman Carolyn Jones. "And so we're hoping to reach them."

Several witnesses in the area reported hearing gunfire, and some saw the suspects on the trail that night. One was described as thin, with sharp cheekbones and dreadlocks. The other suspect was described as out of shape and overly friendly.

In a released statement, East Bay Regional Parks said that a crime as violent as this is rare in such remote areas of the park and that it was particularly troubling, which is why they continue to ask the public’s assistance for any information.

Ruenzel's widow spoke to her congregation Sunday. "As much as David's violent murder represents to me what is an epidemic erosion of humanity in this world," Aldrich-Ruenzel said, "It's also showing me kindness of strangers and the well of love that's all around us that I used to take for granted."

There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

"Apprehending the killers won't bring David back," Aldrich-Ruenzel said, "But I really believe the sooner they are apprehended, the more lives we can save."

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the East Bay Regional Parks District confidential tip line at (510) 690-6521.

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