PASADENA, Texas — The family of 11-year-old Maria Gonzalez had only been living in their Pasadena apartment for three months before tragedy struck last Saturday.
As investigators work to find the person responsible for killing Maria, many in the Pasadena community are coming together in a time of need.
"They were in no position to be dealing with having to bury a loved one, especially a child," said April Aguirre.
Aguirre is someone who knows the pain of losing a child. Her niece, 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez, was shot and killed in February 2022.
"Wendy and Armando (Arelene's parents) know exactly what this family is going through and in her name and in her honor we will continue to help others," said Aguirre.
She’s turning that grief into action, launching a GoFundMe account on the Maria family’s behalf.
"Right now, the focus is getting justice for their daughter and primarily getting her to Guatemala in a timely manner so that the body will be in good condition to bury her there where her family is," said Aguirre.
Pasadena police said Maria was sexually assaulted and strangled Saturday. Her body was found in a trash bag underneath her bed by her father who police said has been ruled out as suspect.
"It’s going to take the community to help this baby get sent home," said Aguirre. "He doesn’t have a suit, doesn’t have dress pants, doesn’t have dress shoes, they don’t have that, this wasn’t planned for them.”
It's why companies like Houston’s Meat Planet, Inc. presented Maria's father, Carmelo Gonzalez, with a $1,500 check Thursday evening.
"We just support our community. Our community supports us and we think that it's important when stuff like this happens that we’re involved in it," said Sam Barraza with Meat Planet, Inc.
Help in time of need as a father seeks answers and justice.
"With his permission and blessing we started this for him and in God’s name we hope that it prevails," said Aguirre.
A community prayer vigil will be held on Friday, August 18, at 7 p.m. at 1004 Main Street in Pasadena.
The team at Meat Planet Inc. is hosting a BBQ benefit on Saturday, August 26, at 11 a.m., at 7130 Navigation Boulevard, in Houston.
The proceeds will go towards a proper burial for Maria in Guatemala and to support her family.
Investigators are combing through physical and digital evidence to find out who's responsible for Maria's death. Police said there was no forced entry into the home and nothing was stolen.
Anyone who knows anything about this case is urged to call Detective M. Quintanilla at 713-475-7803 or Detective S. Mata at 713-475-7878.