Christina Reichard can still feel the heat of July 3 – 17 years ago.
Lancaster city residents were on their porches, in the streets and on the sidewalks, excitement of the approaching holiday filled the thick summer air.
And it was on the night of July 3, 2002 into the 4th, that Victor “Shorty” Melendez Jr. was walking home to his family when he was shot to death in the 100 block of Dauphin Street.
Every Independence Day since – which is also Melendez’s daughter’s birthday – a reminder to the family of their loss.
And how the killer or killers have yet to face the music.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people aware of what happened” to my husband, Reichard said this week. “It was Fourth of July and very warm, everybody was out.
“And people talk.”
Seventeen years later, Reichard is hoping that chatter reaches police, who have not stopped following tips in the case, but could use a fresh lead – ideally, a previously-reluctant witness.
Melendez’s family is asking anyone with information – even if they believe it to be minor and worthless to investigators – to provide it.
“Obviously it’s hard to raise kids without their dad,” Reichard said. “It’s difficult when your kid doesn’t have that father figure.”
Tips can be provided via this CrimeWatch post or anonymously to CrimeStoppers by texting 'LANCS' and the information to 847411.
There was an empty space at Rome Melendez’s high school graduation last month. He was just over a year old when Shorty was killed.
“Even though he has no memory of him,” Reichard said of Rome, “he’s just like him.”
That same void was felt a couple years ago on the day Shorty’s daughter, Leanna, got married.
The grief is compounded by the thought of not knowing who pulled the trigger.
“It comes and goes in spurts; sometimes, I get obsessive with it,” Reichard said.
The case is not considered cold, thanks to modern technologies that could advance the investigation.
There is DNA work being done and while police are not certain what that will uncover, if anything, Reichard cannot help but think of the recent arrest and prosecution of Raymond Rowe.
DNA analysis and genealogy work put the mark squarely on Rowe, known by many as “DJ Freez,” as Christy Mirack’s killer. Mirack’s family spent 26 years wondering who killed Christy in her East Lampeter Township home.
Rowe pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence.
For the Melendez family, the anniversary and major events like a graduation or wedding, offer a mixture of celebration and sadness.
And hope that a silent witness will gather the strength to say something.
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