AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Ramon Lara was his family's pride and joy. He was the son who took care of his mother and took on the role of protective older brother.
"He liked to live life," his father Lee said. "Ramon was the type of guy, if you met him for the first time, automatically you're going to like him."
"You're going to have a best friend for life," said Monica Alvarado, Ramon's younger sister.
But on April 9, 1987, his life ended at the end of a gun. Just before 9 p.m., closing time, Ramon was working the counter at Hillside Liquors in the Oak Hill Shopping Center. What happened next has been a mystery for almost 30 years.
"His body was located behind the counter by a worker from another business in the strip center. They went in to check on him because they didn't see him standing at the counter," said Austin Police Homicide Cold Case Detective, Jeff Gabler, who took over the case when the original detective retired. "He was just your truly innocent victim. He wasn't out running the streets committing crimes, he was working. He was working for a paycheck and he lost his life doing that."
No one has ever been arrested or charged with Lara's murder. Gabler said there are many reasons why the case has been difficult to solve.
"The lack of eyewitnesses, the lack of anybody who heard anything, the lack of forensic evidence, just all adds up," Gabler explained.
The details of the crime are few, even for investigators. April 9 was payday for employees at nearby Motorola. Hillside Liquors was also a check cashing location, so the store had more cash on hand than usual. The killer made off with about $1,300 from two cash registers. Police say Ramon was shot twice with either a .357 or .38 caliber revolver--the gunshot to his head was the deadly blow. Investigators believe the murder happened sometime between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m. A gun, kept at the store for protection, was stolen. There was no working camera surveillance system in the store.
"The original investigation focused on several known subjects involved in several armed robberies. It was believed to be an armed robbery that went bad," Gabler said.
The detective says a man who committed several armed robberies in the area around the same time Ramon was murdered is still at the top of the list of suspects. He has since been to prison, but is back out and living in Austin.
"We're just lacking that one golden piece to put us over the hurdle to link someone to this crime," said Gabler.
Crime Scene Photos
A Family Waiting for Justice
"I just pray and leave it to God," Carmen Alvarado said through tears that never fall. "Maybe he was an angel and God needed him. Good angels, good persons go with God, so this is the way that I remember my son."
Carmen chooses to focus on her happy memories.
"He liked to play soccer. And he liked to have a lot of friends," she said, looking through old photos of her son playing soccer at Bedicheck Middle School and with his friends during his time at Crockett High School.
But for Monica, there is no peace. All of these years later, she is still grieving.
"I was 16. My brother was 23. I've lived past my brother's age. It's not fair that I didn't get to have my brother with me," she said through her tears. "He's 23 years old forever. And it's just time. It's time to just put an end to it. And not make it a cold case anymore. And just solve it."
"Somebody out there knows something," Gabler said. "They either know direct information regarding Mr. Lara's murder or they heard something back then and maybe they realize as they get older, hey, I need to do the right thing."
Anyone with information about the murder of Ramon Lara should call the Austin Police Homicide tip line at 512-477-3588 or the Homicide Unit Main Line at 512-974-5210.
Unsolved Homicides in Austin
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