Family of slain woman seeks leads in Spencer

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SPENCER — The Nov. 13 shooting death of Deyanira “Dee” Rios de la Cruz remains an unsolved crime.
And her family wants to know why.
Dee was killed last year at the start of her morning shift at the Latin Mix convenience store. The 20-year-old was shot just after she hit the panic alarm.
The gunman took off with about $11.
Rios normally worked in the afternoon, but that morning she switched shifts with another employee to earn extra money to help her family with bills.
Spencer Police released a sketch of the suspect and then released a video of a person of interest walking through the Food Lion in Spencer.
But police received leads that didn’t take them far, and the case is still open. And for the past seven months, Dee’s family has been carrying around the weight of not knowing who took her life.
On Thursday, Spencer Police Chief Michael James said he received an email from the FBI, promising to work on evidence this week, but he said he’s not holding his breath.
“I don’t get too excited because they’ve been telling me that for months,” he said. James would not give details about what was sent to the FBI and SBI, and he’s not sure if the findings will help the case at all.
“I hope that one day we can solve this case. That’s what our greatest desires are,” he said. “We’re doing all we can. And once we get answers back from all of these labs and folks with analysis, we hope it will lead to some answers, whether good or bad. Those things that we’re waiting on are very important.”
James said the police department has had several leads, but they didn’t pan out. One of the men they looked at was incarcerated the day of Dee’s murder, and the other is homeless.
“It’s sort of hard to find a homeless person,” he said. “But we’re still working on it.”
Dee’s mother, Alicia, said whoever killed Dee also took a part of her own heart, and every morning is a struggle for her.
“It’s really hard for her,” Lisa Hughes said about her mother. “She’s basically taking one day at a time.”
Hughes, 35, is Dee’s oldest sibling.
Two weeks after her sister’s murder, Hughes said she finally realized her sister was gone, forever.
“Finally when everything settled down and I was alone in my house, that’s when it just hit me,” she said. “And I was depressed for several weeks after that.”
And every weekend, when her family gathers to cook and visit with each other, they are reminded of Dee’s death.
“We miss just her being around, especially when we get together,” Hughes said. “Because we are that type of family that we try to get together at least once a week. We get together, we cook, we talk or watch movies, whatever.”
Dee’s older brother who lives in Durham makes the drive once a week to spend time with everyone.
“Just her not being there is really hard for us,” Hughes said. “We try to take it one day at a time and we try to support each other.
“I think we got a lot closer after this happened. We really found out the meaning of being a family. You never know if you’re going to see your brothers or sisters tomorrow. So we try to enjoy everything to the fullest.”
Dee was buried at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on Statesville Boulevard.
Her mother visits the grave every Sunday after church, and the rest of the family about twice a month. The gravestone, donated by the church, reads, “La llevamos en nuestros corazones,” which means, “We keep her in our hearts.”
As Hughes, her husband Malcolm, and Alicia de la Cruz stood by Dee’s grave Thursday afternoon, they embraced each other and shared memories, like how excited Dee was at celebrating her 21st birthday in February 2010.
“It feels surreal,” Hughes said. “Even though we’re here, it feels like we are not here at the same time.”
Hughes says her mother will eventually stop hurting, “because, you know, time heals all wounds.”
“That’s just life,” she said. “And we try to be there for her every day.”
Anyone with information about the murder is urged to contact the Spencer Police Department, 704-633-3574, or, Salisbury-Rowan Crimestoppers, 1-866-639-5245, and leave anonymous information.
“I hope that if there is someone who knows something, I hope that they will come forward,” Chief James said. “We look at every lead we get.”
A $3,200 reward will be given to anyone who gives information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects.