On Wednesday, April 27, families of unsolved cases protested outside of Houston Police Department headquarters, demanding justice, accountability, and answers in the deaths of Tailor Clark, Alexander “AJ” Silva, Aliyah Wilson, Diamond Alvarez, Xavier Degollado and more.
The Signal spoke with Emily Rivera, 19-year-old Xavier Degollado’s mother, who said her son left the house on February 28 to walk to the corner store but never returned home. According to Rivera, HPD initially told her there were cameras at the store and apartment building across the street from where the incident occurred but have since refused to answer her phone calls.
“I can’t say my detective isn’t doing their job, but it’s been two months, and I want answers,” Rivera said.
Another grieving mom demanding justice at the protest was Anna Machado, whose 15-year-old daughter Diamond Alvarez was shot 22 times while walking her dog in southwest Houston in early January.
The teenager accused of shooting Alvarez has had his bond reinstated twice despite violating the terms of his bond requirements, according to ABC13.
Machado said her anger is with the judges’/District Attorney’s bail sentencing and the non-surveillance of ankle monitors.
More specifically, why the legal system can’t effectively track offenders around the city, she added. Machado and her family also testified at the Harris County Bail Bond Board meeting, who passed a resolution to charge offenders 10 percent minimum bond requirement for felony crimes which limits offenders’ release from custody.
“If you can’t find or know for a fact that he was out and about, leave him there [jail] until you find out,” Machado told the Signal. “The DA issues bond, why go that low? A murderer shouldn’t be getting all these privileges.”
Moreover, Machado said she doesn’t sleep knowing her daughter’s alleged murderer is free and lives less than three blocks away from her home. Based on the terms of his bond, Deleon can’t have any contact with the family, but his friends not only have continuously threatened her family, HPD told Machado their hands were tied.
“His friends threatened us,” Machado said. “My son received threatening messages, my daughter, my family. [The friends] have been two juveniles arrested already for retaliation, and they couldn’t pick them up either because they couldn’t link his friends to him.”
The inaccuracies of ankle monitors also remain valid in 19-year-old AJ Silva’s case, who went missing in April 2021 while wearing an HPD-issued pre-trial ankle bracelet at the time of his disappearance.
Conception Moreno, Silva’s mother, and Paul Vasquez, Silva’s uncle, said HPD and Mayor Sylvester Turner have dismissed, discredited, and even threatened the family since his disappearance despite their best efforts to help in the investigation.
In evidence obtained by the Signal, text messages show HPD Homicide Detective W. Huff told the family “don’t contact me again” after Vasquez started sending officers potential evidence related to Silva’s case.
“We are contacting the DA’s office should the disappearance of your son AJ become a criminal matter. Vasquez may be facing charges of inference,” HPD Homicide Detective J. Nguyen sent to Moreno.
Minutes later, Moreno said Huff called her and “went off,” more specifically also accusing Vasquez of interfering in the investigation.
“Well if your partner just told me why do you feel the need to call me?” she said.
For context, while HPD still lists Silva as a missing person case in 2022, according to court documents and Silva’s family, in April 2021, his ankle monitor was pinged to a warehouse in northwest Houston for 41 hours before completely shutting off.
According to Vasquez, eyewitnesses on the scene saw Silva running down the street gushing blood. Vasquez also said the HPD Homicide Division interviewed the same eyewitnesses as him but discredited their statements from the investigation.
After speaking with witnesses, the family also said HPD refused to collect forensic or DNA evidence in Silva’s case. So July 2021, after seeking a private investigator, Moreno and Vasquez collected enough of their own evidence, including a cadaver dog, to turn over Silva’s case to the Texas Rangers.
Since his disappearance, no charges or arrests have been made and Silva’s body has not been found.
The family started the TikTok page @justice4lilaj to spread his story, and it has gained over 83,000 followers and 1.3 million likes.
“We have been treated like we’re the suspects, and they’re the victims,” Moreno said. “We have had our lives threatened several times.”
During the protest, officers tried to quiet the families by saying they lacked a bull horn permit and then asked them to be “respectful.” While some officers came to speak to the families, others stood guard at the entryway.
All officers refused to comment on the protest and the unsolved cases when asked by the Signal.
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.