14 years later police search for witnesses in Palo Alto cold case

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) – The Palo Alto Police Department is asking the public for help in solving a cold case from 14 years ago.

A young Bay Area college student was killed while out with friends downtown.

It's an area where college students, professionals and families are easy to find. "I always feel really safe in Palo Alto… ever since I was young. I was able to walk around by myself especially the downtown area," said Sheila Subramanian of Palo Alto.

On Thursday evening, Subramanian and her sister enjoyed each other's company along Alma Street.

Twenty-one-year-old Maria Hsiao was also doing the same with her sister in the early morning hours of June 10, 2001 when she was shot by someone standing not far from her.

"To have a homicide that's so shocking to the community and so senseless. In terms of the victim, it really stays with us," said Sgt. James Reifschneider with Palo Alto Police.

Police have put a video about this case on their Facebook page to try to revive public interest in one of the city's three unsolved homicides.

This case has something the others do not. It has witnesses - up to twenty of them – and still, there's no arrest.

Police say it doesn't appear Hsiao was targeted.

She was a college student at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. She was aspiring to work in the film industry.

She was celebrating her 21st birthday belatedly. Then she was shot by a single bullet to the head.

"She was just coming into the prime of her life and she was killed," said Sgt. Reifschneider. Hsiao was in front of a nightclub called Q Cafe. It has since been replaced by a restaurant.

For Hsiao's sister, the memory of that night remains. She wants justice.

"It would help me to heal so that I can move forward," said Andrea Hsiao. Police hope that changes in people's lives over the past 14 years could bring about a change of heart from a witness or the person responsible.

"Maybe they're in a different place in their life now and they're ready to come forward and tell the truth," said Sgt. Reifschneider.

For one young woman, what happened to Hsiao, someone her own age, is unsettling.

"Something that could get cut short . It's scary. It's shocking, " said Veena Subramanian.

The police and Hsiao's family are offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the person who killed Maria Hsiao.

For tips on this case text or call 650-383-8984 or email paloalto@tipnow.org.