Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 18, 2010

Nine years after homicide, family longs for justice

Police, relatives of Maria Hsiao urge witnesses to step forward about 2001 shooting at Palo Alto nightclub

by Jocelyn Dong and Gennady Sheyner

Andrea Hsiao still thinks of her sister every day, even though it's been nine years since Maria was shot and killed outside the Q Café nightclub in downtown Palo Alto.

Hsiao remembers how she and Maria were so crazy for the Backstreet Boys, they once stood in line all night to buy tickets to the boy band's concert.

She thinks about the long talks she and her younger sister used to have. She thinks about how, now that she is a mother, her little girls would have adored their Auntie "Ria."

And she wonders: When will someone finally step forward with the information that's needed to solve the mystery of who killed Maria?

For Palo Alto Police Capt. Bob Beacom, coordinator of the department's investigative-services division, the case is very much alive. Last week, on the ninth anniversary of Maria's death, the department held a press conference and called for any witnesses to the shooting to contact the police and help them find justice for Maria, who was a 21-year-old art student out for a night of fun.

Police Chief Dennis Burns said he hoped the passage of time, along with a $100,000 reward and the police department's new anonymous-tip system, would prompt a witness to step forward after years of silence.

"People change and relationships change," Burns said. "It's possible that the person with information about Maria's killer may be more inclined to come forward now because they have matured or because their relationship with the suspect has changed."

Sometimes, Beacom said Wednesday, time helps people to listen to their consciences.

"We're confident someone knows what happened," he said. Perhaps now that person will feel it is the right time to come forward and give the information only he or she knows.

Even though about 20 people were outside the Alma Street nightclub when the 12:20 a.m. shooting occurred, no one reported seeing the shot fired, police said. The club has since closed down.

But the pain goes on for Hsiao and her close-knit family. Maria, described as a sweet and thoughtful young woman, had three brothers and a sister in addition to her parents. She was active in her church.

The weekend before last, the Hsiaos held a time of remembrance at Maria's Oakland gravesite, just as they have done every year.

For the past week, they have been volunteering in Bay Area schools through the charity they launched in honor of Maria, the Ria Foundation ("Ria" was her nickname).

They and other volunteers brought T-shirts, paint and supplies to 900 second- and third-graders in cities ranging from San Jose to Oakland to Martinez. After being shown how to paint and mix colors, the students depicted their hopes and dreams on the T-shirts. For some disadvantaged kids, it was a rare chance to express themselves through art, Hsiao said.

"Seeing the wonder and joy of each one of these children renews our faith in people and our future. Maria would be so proud," she said.

Since the nonprofit's founding in 2002, nearly 7,000 school kids have received art lessons.

Maria's mother also has tried to channel her broken-heartedness into service to others. She works at the cemetery where Maria is buried and helps the families of other violent-crime victims to plan their loved one's funerals.

For all the good work they are doing, Hsiao said, the family's emotional wounds are still fresh. Not knowing what happened nine years ago has prevented them from healing normally.

"It's a long, drawn-out grieving process," she said.

Even the family's happy moments — weddings, births, graduations — are bittersweet, as they think of how each of the milestones would have been for Maria, she said.

That's why Hsiao continues to seek closure and why she wants those with information about the homicide to know that the $100,000 reward could be theirs, following the shooter's arrest and conviction.

"As long as I live, I will be the voice for my sister because her voice and life were taken from her," Hsiao said. "She would have wanted justice, and I will never give up the search for it for her."

Anyone with information, however small, about the night of June 10, 2001, can text or e-mail anonymous tips to paloalto@tipnow.org. The TipNow service encrypts the sender's name, phone number and other contact information to make sure the person's identity remains anonymous.

Witnesses can also contact Detective Aaron Sunseri at 650-329-2569.

Managing Editor Jocelyn Dong can be e-mailed at jdong@paweekly.com. Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by very sad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2010 at 10:51 pm

This is a very sad story. I still remember when that young woman was murdered. She was leaving the club with a group of friends after celebrating her 21st birthday. Such a bright future cut short. If anyone has more information about the crime, please contact the Palo Alto Police Department. Thank you.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

I remember reading about this story and just being aghast that someone could basically be assassinated in public with people around in downtown Palo Alto. What a sad, tragic horrible story, and even worse since there has been no progress on the case and no one has had the integrity or courage to come forward. I sincerely hope that whoever did this is caught and convicted of this crime. I still just wonder how such a thing could happen and who commit such an act?


Posted by Kevin, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Does anybody know what percentage of murders are never solved in this country? I think we see too many TV crime-solver programs where the crime is always solved, often by trace evidence analysis. What happens when there is no trace evidence, no eye witnesses, no tips?

PAPD cannot be expected to solve unsolvable crimes.


Posted by very sad, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2010 at 6:33 pm

The case can be solved if witnesses come forward. Please help the victim's family, as well as the rest of our community, find some closure. The original article has the police department's anonymous e-mail address if you are afraid of being identified.


Posted by Another widow in Palo Alto, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 12, 2010 at 2:26 am

After my husband was murdered in 1972, his case was never solved. It since has gone to the Cold Case Unit in San Francisco, who claims that his case has been "misplaced" due to the moving of their office....Our family has asked to have two pieces of evidence re-examined for the DNA as DNA information has upgraded changes, even within the last 10 years.
My family also has been hopeful that after so many years someone would come forward with information. Someone, somewhere is still on the streets, free, while our hearts are in bondage...
I am glad to see that the newly elected DA in San Jose is going to reopen the Santa Clara County Cold Case Unit. May it bring success and peace of mind to those who need closure........


Posted by Jocelyn Dong, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jun 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

@Another widow

I'm so sorry for your loss and the difficult road to justice you are continuing to travel. If you would be willing to speak with a Weekly reporter about what you have experienced, please feel free to contact me at jdong@paweekly.com.

Thank you.


Posted by fokw, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm

a symptom of the usa. ''random'' violence is a symptom of wrong thinking and lies of society.


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