LONG BEACH, Calif. — Detectives trying to determine who abducted a 3-week-old infant after shooting her parents and uncle at a Southern California home have few clues and are asking for the public's help, officials said Monday.
The baby, a 10-pound girl named Eliza Delacruz, was found dead Sunday in a trash bin in Imperial Beach, about 120 miles south of Long Beach, where her relatives were shot the day before.
A transient discovered the infant's body at a strip mall in the city near Mexico, raising the possibility that the assailant crossed or hoped to cross the border. Mourners erected a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers outside a pizza shop at the mall.
Long Beach detectives believe the family was targeted for some reason but do not yet know the motive, police spokeswoman Marlene Arrona said. They would say only that they are looking for a male suspect who is either black or Hispanic.
The Long Beach residence showed no sign of forced entry, and nothing was taken, homicide Lt. Lloyd Cox told the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Sunday.
"We believe that this is not a random act," Cox said. "We are going through the backgrounds of all the individuals who live here, but it appears to be very personal."
The San Diego County medical examiner's office said it was unknown where or when the infant died before her body was found. An autopsy had not yet been performed, and no cause of death was released.
The child's father was released from the hospital Sunday. Her mother and uncle remain hospitalized and were listed in critical condition late Sunday. Their names were not released.
Aaron Cruz lives next door to the victims' two-story stucco house in a working-class neighborhood of North Long Beach. He said the baby's father is a veterinary technician who works six days a week and was thrilled to be a dad at age 23.
Cruz, who described himself as the man's best friend, said the family often hosted large barbecues and parties in their front lawn after moving in a few years ago.
The baby's parents and uncle lived there with another uncle and the baby's grandparents, but no one else was there when the shooting happened, Cruz said.
"He had just gotten off work, and this happened to him. It was a normal day for him," he said. "This was out of nowhere."
Cruz recalled a large baby shower with dancing that the family threw in November.
"It was his first and only daughter," Cruz said, as he relit candles that had fizzled out in the breeze. "He was robbed of fatherhood."
A trickle of mourners went by the family's home Monday. Christmas lights hung on the porch over a string of yellow police tape, and a wreath decorated the door.
Joseph Guerrero stopped with his wife and 4-year-old son to leave a candle and balloon. He didn't know the victims but was moved by the infant's death.
"We have three girls and our son, and when we were picking out the balloon, I just squeezed my daughter's hand thinking about what they were going through," he said.
A woman who identified herself as the baby's grandmother and the mother of the two injured brothers also stopped by but left in tears without going inside the house.
Meanwhile, police defended their decision not to issue an Amber Alert for the baby because they lacked a description of the suspect's vehicle.
"One of the criteria for that is having a license plate number. We don't even have that," Arrona said.
Investigators were asking anyone with information to call or send tips to their anonymous hotline. "We really need the public's help," Arrona said.
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