It was in May, close to the 15th anniversary of her son’s murder, that I wrote about Leticia Ruiz, who had lost almost all the childhood memories of Carlos Lamas because of a stroke she suffered soon after her oldest child’s death.
But despite that memory loss, and her ongoing battle with liver cancer, 52-year-old Ruiz was not about to give up on her quest to bring the man charged with this murder to justice.
That man, Carlos Perez, had already been deported to Mexico for unrelated reasons when he was charged five years ago with the 1998 murder, and the Aurora Police Department did not have jurisdiction to extradite him back to the Fox Valley to stand trial.
When I sat down with Ruiz in May, she had plans to meet with Aurora Police Department Lt. Pete Inda and a representative from the U.S. Marshal’s Office, as she did every year around the anniversary of her son’s death, to check on any progress.
This time the conversation was more encouraging.
The Marshal’s Office told her they were going to go to Mexico in 2014 to bring him back to Kane County to stand trial, she said when I caught up with her recently.
“They gave me their word … and that is very good news,” she said.
Ruiz, a single mom raising three sons on the East Side of Aurora, had almost lost another child, 15 at the time, to gunfire the year before her eldest was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. Carlos Lamas was not in a gang, Ruiz says, but had associated with gang members.
Days after burying her son, a stroke left one side of her face paralyzed and wiped so many memories from her mind. Family and doctors say Ruiz’s own guilt she felt over her son’s death also contributed to this memory loss.
“She is detaching to avoid the pain,” daughter-in-law Bernice Lamas told me.
The rest of the year has brought a mixture of news to this close-knit family. On the positive side, Ruiz, who is still on medication to treat the cancer, says her doctors informed her she is eligible for a liver transplant.
“My health is not 100 percent, but I have to stay here for my kids,” she says.
The not-so-good news is that the law office she was working for shut down earlier this month, so she is desperately looking for employment to keep from losing her home.
Ruiz, who has worked tirelessly with victim’s advocacy groups over the years, says faith continues to keep her going: not only faith in “the Man upstairs” but also in the Aurora police and U.S. Marshal’s Office.
“I believe,” she says, “that when one door closes, another one opens.”