KATY, Texas – Harris County Sheriff detectives say they know who shot a popular Katy chef to death; investigators just need help finding the suspect.
Meanwhile, scores of people packed the restaurant where Chef Elmer Villatoro worked to raise money for his family.
Antonia’s Cucina Italiana near Katy Mills Mall dedicated their dinner menu to Villatoro. They used the last menu that he wrote.
Villatoro’s first course nearly brought his buddy Sam Beni to tears.
“I don’t have very many friends in Houston,” Beni said. “He was one of my best friends. I think that’s the part that actually hurts (the most).”
The two men worked side-by-side in Antonia’s for a year-and-a-half. Villatoro, their social chef, embraced Beni, an Iranian-born cook who was used to being overlooked.
“I have goose bumps all over me right now because I can’t see nothing in his character to honestly say that would drive someone (with) so much hate towards him,” Beni said.
Last month, a man shot Villatoro to death while he sat in his barber’s chair getting a haircut. The married father of a five-year-old girl and two-year-old boy died from the gunshot wound.
To help the chef’s widow, Villatoro’s former co-workers organized a special dinner to raise money for the family Thursday evening.
“My wife, Tina, and I, it moved our heart,” said customer Greg Dalton. “So we just wanted to be here.”
Dalton knew the chef only through his food. However, that proved enough for many long-time customers.
“It is like a family here and we were sad too,” said Beth Naef, another customer.
So many people joined them that Antonia’s owner had to stagger reservations to accommodate everyone.
“I don’t know the family either,” said Dan Naef, an area developer and frequent customer. “But, I think that’s okay. I think it says a lot about what Katy is.”
Detectives believe the murder suspect is still in Harris County, a spokesperson said.