by Sgt Robert Ruth
City of Saginaw (MI) Police Department
Editor’s Note: Sgt Ruth shares his story of how the murder of his friend and co-worker’s teenage daughter changed the dynamics of being a police officer.
I have put a lot of thought into what has happened to Vince Sanchez over the past 13 years. I don’t know how I would react if I were in the same situation. Everyone reacts in a different fashion to a life-altering experience similar to the one that Vince has gone through over the years. Vince lost a daughter and the suspect’s family has lost a son, due to a very reckless decision that the suspect made on September 26, 1999 causing the death of Nicole “Coco” Sanchez, a teenager.
It seems like yesterday. The phone rang early on a Sunday morning. I was advised of the tragic event that took place; Vince’s daughter was shot to death. I was requested to assist with the investigation of her death. I arrived on scene to find that the witnesses and suspect were still at the home of the shooting. The witnesses, in typical fashion, were trying to cover up for the suspect and were not telling us the whole truth about the incident. I seized the opportunity to confront the suspect about his initial statements to the first officers on scene and within a few minutes heard him say that he had shot Coco. When the scene was secure, the suspect and witnesses were transported to headquarters for statements.
I went to the hospital and talked with my fellow detective and friend, Vince. I still remember looking into his teary eyes trying to console him. He just learned that his daughter had been senselessly murdered. It was a very emotional and devastating time for him. He wanted to know if we had the suspect in custody. I informed him that we did and that he has admitted to me that he shot Coco. I reaffirmed with Vince that we would do everything by the book and make sure that every angle of the investigation would be completed with the utmost detail. Vince wanted to talk with the suspect, which we couldn’t allow.
I interviewed the suspect for the next few hours going over every detail of the incident. It was a very brutal murder. Hours turned into days and days turned into weeks as Detective Livingston and I investigated every lead in the case. The suspect was tried and convicted of murdering Coco and is in prison for the crime. I don’t think Vince and his family will ever get full closure in the death of their daughter. There are no winners in a situation like this, the suspect’s family lost their son to prison and Vince lost his daughter to death.
I remember going to the funeral and the cemetery where Coco was buried. I still drive by her grave site 4-5 times a year while I visit my departed loved ones in the same cemetery. I think of Vince every time I look at the flowers or stuffed animal that marks her grave site and shows how much the family still loves and misses her. I, as do most officers, hide the emotion and try to forget the past. I stay positive knowing that Vince is and will always be a good friend and co-worker. Over the years, I have worked hundreds of homicide scenes. However, on this one, I can remember every detail just like it was yesterday.
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