Cold case still burns in family's hearts

Jon Wilcox By Jon Wilcox

Sept. 9, 2017 at 9:27 p.m.
Updated Sept. 10, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Roxanne Cierra, 32, stands on a memorial made on the site where her mother, Velma Cierra, was found murdered Sept. 10, 2007.

Roxanne Cierra, 32, stands on a memorial made on the site where her mother, Velma Cierra, was found murdered Sept. 10, 2007.   Olivia Vanni for The Victoria Advocate

Roxanne Cierra, 32, used to fill pages with angry words meant for her mother's killer.

"It would kill me because I know my mom would just want me to let it go," a tearful Cierra said.

Ten years after a passing driver found Velma Cierra, 41, lying dead near an isolated stretch of Pleasant Green Drive, Cierra is beginning to accept her mother's death. Although she has since thrown away those pages, Cierra said her family's grief still rings clear and sharp across the years.

"It was not an accident," the daughter said. "It was done intentionally, and I think that's what hurts us the most."

In preparation for the 10th anniversary of her mother's death Sunday, Cierra celebrated her mother's birthday by visiting a makeshift shrine erected by family members on Pleasant Green Drive. There, Cierra manicured the site, straightening stones, raising a toppled vase of flowers and dusting a sheet metal print of her mother's Crime Stoppers bulletin.

Although a decade has passed, Cierra said she has learned little about how her mom died - let alone the person or people who killed her.

"All we know is this was my mom, and she loved us," Cierra said.

But she has started visiting Anthony Daniel, a cold case investigator at the Victoria County Sheriff's Office who is handling her mom's case. Those visits, like the discarding of her angry rhetoric, are recent developments in her life and evidence that she is learning to process the trauma.

The tragedy of homicide leaves an indelible mark on the lives of victims' families, said Mary Sue Woods, a Port Lavaca woman whose son was fatally stabbed in 1999. Since 2000, Woods has organized a Tree of Angels in Port Lavaca, an event aimed at remembering those lost to violent crime.

"You don't ever get over it, but after a number of years, you begin to accept it," she said.

Acknowledging Cierra's practice of unloading painful thoughts onto paper, Woods said she too once performed a similar act of catharsis.

"I wrote everything down simply because, when you go to bed at night, it's like a movie reel. It goes over and over again in your mind," Woods said.

Daniel said he could not comment about the case's details, but the passing years have not affected his desire for justice.

"I'm not going to quit until I do that," said Daniel, adding he understand the Cierras' need for closure.

To Crossroads residents who may have relevant information to share, he asked they contact Victoria Crime Stoppers.

To whoever killed Velma Cierra, he had a grimmer message.

"I'm going to find you, and I'm going to make sure you are prosecuted," he said.

Although Roxanne Cierra admits her mother battled drug addiction for years even up until her death, those mistakes do not lessen the mother and daughter's bond. It also does not lessen the injustice of her death, Cierra said.

"We knew nothing of that life she had. All I knew was this was my mom, and she loved us," Cierra said.

The daughter said she remembered her mother as a talkative, compassionate woman who always smiled and gave affection readily. But with Roxanne Cierra's eldest son born just two years before his grandmother's death, the family has missed out on that love.

"They took my grandparents' daughter. They took my aunts and uncles' sister. They took our mom, and they took my kids' nana away from them," she said, adding, "and they got away with it."


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