WHITE CITY — While most people are in a festive, holiday spirit this time of year, it's hard for Lisa DeHerrera and her family to focus on celebrating until their loved ones can finally rest in peace.
"We're doing the best we can. But it just feels hollow, empty — not what Christmas should be," she said. "It's another Christmas season we're just empty and filled with sadness."
Saturday marks one year since the bodies of Ralph Salazar, 59, and his girlfriend, Alice Griego, 55, were found inside the master bedroom inside Salazar's Salt Lake County house, 2811 E. Ksel Drive (9420 South). An autopsy determined both were shot to death. Their bodies were found on a bed that was intentionally set on fire, according to investigators.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder says his investigators have collected a "significant amount of evidence" in the case, which includes an "exhaustive" forensics investigation. But there are still pieces of the puzzle needed to bring the case to a close.
"We are confident there are individuals familiar with this case that have additional information," Winder said.
Investigators have made no arrests in the case and no suspects had been named.
Family members of Salazar and Griego made a collective plea Friday asking anybody who has information about the case to step forward.
"Somebody knows something. It's very hard to keep something to yourself. People like to talk and brag. We feel like somebody knows something and all we need is someone to say it," said Frankie Cisneros, one of Griego's five children.
Cisneros said the past year had been extremely hard on his family. Losing their mother has been difficult, but it is also frustrating knowing that police have been working hard on the case, but have unable to make an arrest.
"My mom was such a great person. She never did nothing bad in her life. For something like this to happen, the callousness of it, the degree of — their bodies were nothing. To witness something like that, to see something like that, it's the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with in my life," Cisneros said.
Griego's children still visit their mother's gravesite.
"We all talk to her as much as we can. We went up to her grave for Thanksgiving. We see her as often as we can, at least once a month. It's tough. It's tough for all of us. We're all dealing with it in our own ways. We all have our own certain connections with our mom," Cisneros said.
"I try to speak to my mother as much as possible," added the youngest son, Mario Rodriguez. "Growing up, she was my therapist, mother, a judge to me. She gave me advice, anything when I'm down or struggling or things aren't going my way, (I) just spill it out because I know she's listening. It's tough knowing she can't respond, or at least physically respond. ... We do all miss her. It's been really tough without her."
Family members are also still grieving the loss of Salazar, known to everyone as "Uncle Ralph."
"He was probably the biggest part of our family, the glue that kept us all together. None of us can have closure until we know exactly what happened," DeHerrera said. "I get worried the more time passes, the further we're going to get away from finding a conclusion."
Salazar moved to Utah from New Mexico when he was a teenager. He started working in siding and worked his way up to become the owner of RS Aluminum.
Griego moved to Utah from Colorado and got a job at Smith's Food and Drug in 1996. For more than 15 years, she worked in the store bakery.
The families are offering a "substantial" reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible. They aren't willing to say how much, but note that life insurance money left behind from Griego's death, as well as taking out money on their own retirement plans, have all gone toward putting together a large reward.
"(Griego) was the greatest person ever. She was our mother and our father. Nobody could ever take her place," said daughter Jenna Griego. "And not even a million dollars could bring her and Ralph back. But if anyone has information, please call."
Winder said his department has several theories on a possible motive, although he did not elaborate.
"We're dealing with someone who is very keen to cover up their actions," he said. "They knew what they were doing, knew what they were going to do, made significant attempts to hide it."
But Winder, again without offering details to protect the investigation, said the suspect "made some mistakes," and the person responsible knows what those mistakes are. Investigators are confident someone knows something that will solve the case, and encouraged that person to stop carrying that "real weight" around with them and contact authorities.
Anyone who has information about the incident can call Unified police at 801-743-5915. Callers may remain anonymous.
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