Her name was Victoria DeSantiago. She was just a little girl when she was murdered by a serial killing psychopath. It took 30 years to find her killer, to bring her family some sense of closure and justice. Victoria DeSantiago was 8 years old in 1979, living in Fresno, California. I too was 8 years old in 1979, living in Fresno, California, just a couple miles from Victoria.
Victoria DeSantiago and her 3 year old sister were walking their dog on February 3, 1979 near their home on First and Belmont Street in Fresno. The girls were abducted by a man in a van. A few hours later, Victoria’s sister was found safe. A few days passed and the whole city was looking for Victoria. Her disappearance had parents terrified and had little kids like me, afraid to leave our homes.
Prior to Victoria’s abduction, I had been allowed to wander in my neighborhood and to walk to the 7-11 nearby, as long as I had other kids with me. We played outside until the street lights came on, that was the rule, until Victoria disappeared. At age 5, I had my own run-in with a strange man who stopped his car in front of my house and offered me candy to get in the car with him. Instead, I ran inside and told my mom, who then promptly called the Fresno Police Department. I told the officer what happened, but to my knowledge, that particular bad man was never caught.
After awhile I was allowed to resume a normal childhood and play outside with the other kids. Then Feb. 3, 1979 happened and it brought back all the fears I had. Victoria was walking home from a 7-11 when she was abducted, just a couple of miles from my home. 3 days later, her nude body was found in an irrigation canal. She had been badly beaten and sexually assaulted before her death. Fresno citizens were left in a terrified state of mind and all I wanted was to know that the evil person who killed Victoria DeSantiago would be caught. I wanted that for 30 years.
I never forgot Victoria or what happened to her, I knew it could have just as easily been me or some other 8 year old girl. Her murder was probably one of the many reasons I grew up to become a police officer, a Fresno police officer. I hoped someday, somehow I might be able to solve the case; I wanted to eventually become a homicide detective. Unfortunately, an injury caused me to receive an early retirement from the department, but I still hoped that someday Victoria DeSantiago and her family would receive the justice they deserved.
In October 2009, Victoria’s case was finally solved, in great part due to a terrific Cold Case Detective from Fresno P.D., Carlos Leal. I do not live in California anymore, and was not made aware of this break in the case until just last week.
Detective Leal did a DNA swab on Caro and matched it to DNA from 30 years ago in Victoria DeSantiago’s murder. Detective Leal told the media that he believes Caro chose Victoria at random. “I believe it was a crime of opportunity.” “He saw a chance and he took it.” I was stunned, relieved and elated that the case had finally been solved and that someone was going to pay for the crime. I applaud my former police department for never forgetting Victoria DeSantiago anymore than I did.
Fernando Caro had been living in Fresno at the time of Victoria’s murder; he killed 2 teens in Fowler (just 20 minutes from Fresno) in 1980. He is in San Quentin serving a life sentence for those murders. He is believed to have killed at least 2 other kids, including Victoria. He will be facing the death penalty for Victoria’s murder. You can click here to see the news conference video about his connection to Victoria’s murder.
Source: The author’s memories, Fresno’s ABC Channel 30 and kmph.com