Crime & Courts

Delayed justice: 10 Wichita homicides from 2017 remain open

Sandra Flores just needed a job. It’s probably why she was walking in a strip mall parking lot near Pawnee and Seneca on March 17.

“We thought she was (job searching) that morning, because she had been for weeks,” her sister, Elizabeth Flores said recently. “My mom lives not too far from there. That’s why she was in that area.”

But just before 8 a.m., a passerby found Sandra Flores, 26, lying unresponsive in the parking lot on the south side of Westway Plaza Shopping Center. She had been killed by a single bullet to the back of her head.

The person who fired the shot may have used a high-powered rifle, Wichita police said. That person could have been a distance away.

Those are just two of the many unanswered questions the Flores family has to live with every day. Sandra Flores’ killer hasn’t been found.

Sandra Flores 2
The person who fatally shot Sandra Flores, 26, hasn’t been arrested. Her family struggles to find closure while the mystery of what happened continues. Courtesy photo

No closure in unsolved cases

Her death is one of 10 unsolved Wichita homicides in 2017.

In each case, there is a witness who holds the key that could bring closure to a grieving family while making Wichita a safer city, police Capt. Brent Allred said.

“Our goal is to find out who is responsible for each of these,” he said. “Someone committed a violent crime and that resulted in the death of an individual. With these being open cases, it leaves that perpetrator still on the street. I know there are people out there in the community who know what happened, and it’s important that we get this information.”

Investigators will follow up on any and all tips they receive. No matter how small or insignificant someone might think information might be, Allred said, it’s crucial that they let police know.

“Even if they don’t think it’s important, it can lead (investigators) to other things, which leads to other locations, a house or other individuals who may have information,” he said. “It’s a domino effect a lot of times.”

In her sister’s case, Elizabeth Flores finds it hard to believe that no one was near the strip mall where Sandra Flores walked.

“You’d think there would be a lot of traffic at that time,” she said. “Nobody has come out to say they passed anything. We’re told nobody had (surveillance) video either.”

Sandra Flores’ death has confused her family.

Sandra Flores
Sandra Flores, 26, was found dead in a strip mall parking lot at Pawnee and Seneca on March 17. Police think she was hit once by a high-powered rifle “from some distance away” while she was taking a morning walk. Courtesy photo

“We honestly think that it has to be someone who knew who she was,” Elizabeth Flores said, explaining police have told her family about some evidence showing the incident wasn’t an accident, or random occurrence. “Detectives said she was going to meet someone at the Starbucks.”

But who, she doesn’t know.

“It’s very confusing,” she said. “They (police) give us bits of stuff, but none of it goes together.”

Police have said publicly that they haven’t ruled out an accidental shooting, but her death remains classified as a homicide.

Elizabeth Flores said her sister was very outgoing and outspoken.

“If someone knew her, they knew she was not a bad person,” she said. “She always tried to welcome anybody. It could be that she just met the wrong person and they did her wrong.”

In the nine months since her death, the Flores family has tried to find closure. But there is none.

“It’s been really hard for us,” Elizabeth Flores said. “We don’t even have our family here. The other people here are my sisters, and my mom and dad. We don’t have uncles or cousins here, so it’s just us. We’ve just been there for each other just trying to figure out what to do next.”

And she has a message for whoever is hiding information about her sister’s death: “There has to be a point where you can’t accept people getting away with it. Especially these days with all these killings that are happening (in Wichita). You just have to be a better citizen and step up and you can always be anonymous.”

Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.

The nine other cases

Wichita police, on average, solve 80 to 100 percent of homicides each year, Allred said. Five of 2017’s unsolved homicides happened within a month. Five other homicides in that time period have been closed.

“It takes time to solve all these,” Allred said. “But we also have one from the first of the year that’s still open.”

Here are the nine other open cases this year.

Bernie Ornelas
Bernadino “Bernie” Ornelas, 24, died after a vehicle pulled alongside his vehicle at the intersection of 18 th and Market on at around 4 p.m. on Jan. 9 and fired several gunshots at him and a passenger. Crime Stoppers of Wichita-Sedgwick County Courtesy photo

▪ Bernadino “Bernie” Ornelas, 24, died after a vehicle pulled alongside his vehicle at the intersection of 18th and Market about 4 p.m. on Jan. 9 and fired several gunshots at him and a passenger. His cousin, Andrew Ornelas, 26, was critically injured.

An orange-colored Chevy Avalanche was at the scene, but no other suspect descriptions were given. The Avalanche was later found.

Police believe the cousins were targeted. One man was arrested in the case, but charges haven’t been filed, so Ornelas’ death is considered unsolved.

Ornelas was Wichita’s first homicide of the year.

▪ James Walker III, 31, was standing outside of a home in the 1200 block of South Minneapolis on April 9 when a group of people arrived and opened fire. He was hit several times.

A number of adults and children were at a get-together at the home. One other person was injured.

An obituary says Walker was a locally known rapper. In his last Facebook post, he mentioned that he needed to go back to school.

▪ Stanislaus Saiz, 56, was killed when he was shot several times while sitting in his car in front of his home in the 600 block of North Edwards on April 16. Police think someone on foot fired at him.

▪ Arthur Goebel, 66, was shot during a confrontation after an intruder broke into his home in the 2300 block of East MacArthur on July 16. Goebel’s wife called 911. They met while he was stationed in Thailand with the Air Force and were married for 43 years.

Dena Hudson, a pastor with Living Word Outreach, said children were drawn to Goebel. He would seek out the shy kids and encourage those who might have been having trouble at school. Until the past couple years, Goebel had been an elder and was a member of the congregation for more than 20 years.

Arthur Goebel
Arthur Goebel, 66, who was shot during a confrontation after an intruder broke into his home in the 2300 block of East MacArthur on July 16. Goebel’s wife called 911. Courtesy photo

▪ Huong Pham, 62, and her 23-year-old son, Cody Ha, were found shot to death in their home in the 7500 block of East Huntington on Nov. 25. Witnesses have said prescription drugs had been sold from the home.

Ha was apparently playing an online video game with friends across the county. One told The Eagle they heard gunshots through the gaming system.

▪ Hasan Rahman, 26, an engineering student at Wichita State University, was working as a Pizza Hut delivery driver. He was fatally shot and left in the trunk of his car. His car was found Nov. 26 in the 7800 block of East Pagent.

Police believe he was killed somewhere between the 1100 and 1300 blocks of North Williamsburg — about 3 miles from where his body was found. That was the location of his last pizza deliveries, but investigators don’t think the deliveries are part of his killing.

There was no evidence Rahman had been robbed.

Rahman was born in Bangladesh and was close to graduating from WSU. Friends described him as kind, helpful and someone who was a jack of all trades.

Hasan Rahman
Mahmoud Karim, cultural secretary of the Wichita Bangladesh Community, speaks to mourners during a memorial at Wichita State University, held for Hasan Rahman, a pizza delivery driver who was killed last weekend. Brian Hayes The Wichita Eagle

▪ Daniel Lopez-Silva, 32, was found about 4:30 a.m. Sunday lying in the driveway of a house in the 4000 block of South Stearman. He had been shot several times and died at a hospital. Police said an unknown person pulled up to the house in a vehicle in the early-morning hours and started shooting.

▪ Rolando Holt, 26, found dead in the 2600 block of East Wilma, where he had been visiting friends. Police said unknown men entered the house shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday and began shooting at Holt.

Holt was the 36th person killed this year.