Vigil held to help solve San Leandro cold case

   A plea from a San Leandro family came Saturday night: one year without justice is too long.

    With a sizable reward offered, the killing of 21 year old Joel Ramirez remains unsolved.

    More than a hundred people attended a vigil on Kenilworth Avenue, where Ramirez grew up and where he died on Dec. 14, 2014.

    "This last year has been incredible. There's not even words to describe it, " Ramirez' aunt Delia Aceves told KTVU.

     "He had such a bright future and then this tragedy changed our world."

     Dozens of people filled the street, holding candles, sharing memories, and watching a tribute video featuring Joel.

    Happy, caring, hard-working, he had just turned 21 when he was murdered. 

    "Help us catch the person who did this to our family so they don't make another family suffer like we are," Aceves implored the crowd.

   Ramirez was shot to death in his driveway as he arrived home in the middle of the night. His body was found at daylight, his car still idling. Turns out, the vehicle was similiar to one owned by a pot grower who had an illicit indoor operation with more than 200 plants, in the front part of the property.

   Joel lived with his mom and grandma in a rear unit.

   "This is my neighborhood as well, "declared San Leandro Police Lt. Robert McManus at the vigil.

   McManus grew up two blocks away, and vowed the department will follow every lead until Ramirez' killer is caught.  

    "Joel lived in the back house, detached, he had no real connection to the people in the front house," explained McManus to KTVU. 

    Investigators realized early on it was a case of mistaken identity, as there was no reason for anyone to want to kill Ramirez. Two months after the crime, the city offered a 25 thousand dollar reward to the first person to come forward with information leading to the killer or killers. 

   "Joel did absolutely nothing wrong," noted McManus.

   "He was the type of kid who was friends with everybody. He went to college, he was studying to be a police officer. He had a clean record."

   Ramirez graduated from San Leandro High School in 2012 with many friends, and many hopes.

   "You didn't think this could happen to someone like Joel, " friend Daniel Olquin told KTVU, "and so it was very shocking when it did. And it still haunts us to this day."

    Ramirez had been dating his girlfriend for almost two years at the time of his murder.

    "It seems like it hurts more every day, " Laura Miller told the crowd tearfully.

    Miller was last to see him. That night, Ramirez had gotten off work at El Torito restaurant, and brought food to Miller and her parents, which he often did.   

   "So we watched movies and ate, and then he said he was wide awake and he was going home," recalled Laura's mother Debbie Miller.

   "I heard the door close and that was the last time."

   Even a year later, there's still a sense of shock at how such a positive and promising young man was wrenched from so many lives.

   "Please come forward," pleaded Laura Miller through tears, "It won't bring him back. It can't make it hurt any less, but it will help at least a little."

    Anyone with information is asked to call San Leandro Police Criminal Investigations at

(510) 577-3230 or Anonymous Crime Tips at (510) 577-3278.

    They can also text "TipSLPolice" to 888777.