KXAN Unsolved: Oak Hill murder, 30 years later

UNSOLVED Murder in Oak Hill Open
UNSOLVED Murder in Oak Hill Open

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.

Ramon Lara before his death. (Courtesy: Lara Family)
Ramon Lara before his death. (Courtesy: Lara Family)

"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

Site of where the murder happened. (APD)
Inside the liquor store. (APD)
Inside the liquor store. (APD)

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.

Ramon Lara's family looks over old photographs of him. (KXAN Photo/Richie Bowes)
Ramon Lara's family looks over old photographs of him. (KXAN Photo/Richie Bowes)

"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

Xiaojia "Grace" Chen

Homicide Victim

  • Age: 47
  • Died: 2/19/2014
  • Location: Galleria Oaks shopping center - 13376 N. US 183
  • Manner: Undisclosed

More Coverage of Grace Chen's death

Investigators know Grace left home the morning of February 19, 2014 around 9:30. She opened the school in the office space she leased on the second floor of the Galleria Oaks Shopping Center. And then, at 3:30 in the afternoon, a call to 911 reporting a woman's body in the second floor restroom.

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Bart "Hawk" Hollis

Homicide Victim

  • Age: 53
  • Died: 4/14/2014
  • Location: 2500 Blk Parmer Ln, near MoPac
  • Manner: Undisclosed

More Coverage of Bart Hollis's death

Bart A. Hollis' body was found along West Parmer Lane near MoPac about 2 p.m. Detectives said the 53-year-old man suffered obvious trauma to his body.

Submit a Tip

Jose Dejesus Chavez

Homicide Victim

  • Age: 25
  • Died: 11/20/2014
  • Location:  4900 East Oltorf St.
  • Manner: Shooting

More Coverage of Jose Dejesus Chavez's death

Chavez and another man were shot at the City View apartments. Chavez died and the other victim was expected to make a full reovery. Police said they did not have any suspects but also had no reason to think the public was in danger.

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Joe "Mikey" Montemayor

Homicide Victim

  • Age: 19
  • Died: 9/22/2014
  • Location: 1100 E. Oltorf Street
  • Manner: Stabbing

More Coverage of Joe Montemayor's death

The night of his death, a neighbor saw the 19-year-old collapse on the sidewalk and called for help. Paramedics pronounced Montemayor dead at the scene, and since then, not much has turned up in this investigation.

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Marvin Oliver

Homicide Victim

  • Age: 35
  • Died: 12/11/2014
  • Location: 9601 Middle Fiskville Road
  • Manner: Shooting

More Coverage of Grace Chen's death

When officers arrived, they found a man with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge, where he later died.

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Richard Escalante

Homicide Victim

  • Age: 28
  • Died: 10/26/2014
  • Location: El Agazajo Bar & Grill at 2408 U.S. 183
  • Manner: Undisclosed

More Coverage of Richard Escalante's death

Richard Escalante was working as a security guard at El Agazajo Bar & Grill when he was attacked. Police wouldn't specify how he died.

Submit a Tip

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