A yr in the past on Sept. 22, 2020, 21-year-old El Camino School scholar, Juan Carlos Hernandez was murdered someday after his evening shift inside a Los Angeles dispensary the place he labored ended.
Hernandez, higher identified to these closest to him as “Cookie,” was an engineering main whereas attending ECC. He had plans to switch to USC and graduate from there like his older brother, Joseph Hernandez had earlier than him.
An altar with a cardboard cutout of Juan Carlos “Cookie” Hernandez’s picture and urn adorns the doorway to the church pulpit on the Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. The altar was designed by Classroom of Compassion’s David Maldonado and Noah Reich, a nonprofit primarily based in Los Angeles. Hernandez’s aunt, Stephanie Pineda, mentioned throughout a cellphone interview that Hernandez acquired his nickname “Cookie” when he was nonetheless a child. “His brother Joseph, when he was younger might by no means pronounce his title proper,” Pineda mentioned. “Joseph began calling him cookie. Ever since then all of us started to name him [that] since he was a child.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union
Juan Carlos Hernandez’s mom, Yajaira Hernandez, prays through the memorial mass held in remembrance of her son on the Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Nonetheless on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, his physique was found by the authorities in a distant space of the Mojave Desert buried in a shallow grave, in response to a District Legal professional’s press launch.
That very same yr on Oct. 15, he would have turned 22-year-old.
Juan Carlos Hernandez’s aunt, Stephanie Pineda, left, prepares a set of balloons that learn “Without end in Our Hearts” whereas her son, Nathan Melendez, 11, appears on through the Memorial Mass in Hernandez’s honor on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. “I knew the twenty second was going to be a troublesome day for my sister,” Pineda mentioned. “I took the initiative to arrange the mass for Juan…and tried to make that memorial mass as clean as attainable for my sister. That day was a troublesome day to relive each second we went by means of a yr in the past. It was essential type me that my sister had the help of her love ones. The memorial was was vital to have fun Juan’s life, to honor him.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Juan Carlos Hernandez’s mom, Yajaira Hernandez, receives a hug from a girl on the conclusion of the mass memorial on the Saint Paul de Vincent Parish in Los Angeles. Her sister Stephanie Pineda, far proper, stands again with arms clasped. “Shedding my nephew has been troublesome as a result of it has modified all the pieces,” Pineda mentioned. “I misplaced somebody near me. We had a really shut relationship as aunt and nephew. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t consider him. It looks like yesterday. It doesn’t even really feel [like] a yr. It’s troublesome to speak about him or consider a reminiscence with out having a tear drop go down purchase face or having a knot in my throat. His loss is one thing that I’ll by no means recover from…There’s at all times that “what if” query. Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union
On Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, household and associates reunited throughout a Memorial Mass to honor his reminiscence on the Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Los Angeles.
As a part of the memorial, the Hernandez household would journey to the dispensary website the place they’d place a sidewalk memorial and make a ultimate cease on the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery to position flowers and embellish the tombstone the place a portion of Hernandez’s ashes lie.
Yajaira Hernandez led the memorial with the complete help of her household and associates, simply as they’d in earlier efforts to seek out her son.
Joseph Hernandez, 24, Juan Carlos Hernandez’s older brother, carries the urn that holds his brother’s ashes outdoors the Saint Vincent de Paul Parish on the finish of the memorial mass held in his honor. “Our household had earlier conversations of what to do when it was our time,” Yajaira Hernandez mentioned. “All of us determined that cremation was what we have been gonna do. This was one thing all of us have agreed to. So sure, Juan’s needs have been to be cremated. Half of his ashes are in that urn that I hold at residence…To me [that urn] represents a by no means ending cycle of life.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Juan Carlos Hernandez’s father, Jose Guadalupe Hernandez, takes a balloon from Stephanie Pineda on the garden of the Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Los Angeles. The balloons with the inscription “Without end in Our Hearts” will likely be launched in a symbolical gesture honoring his reminiscence outdoors the church grounds. Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Relations and associates launch balloons into the sky in a symbolic gesture honoring the reminiscence of murdered El Camino School scholar, Juan Carlos Hernandez outdoors the church grounds on the Saint Vincent de Paul Parish on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. We launched the balloons as an emblem of our love for Juan. Sending our love, our prayers and ideas,” Hernandez’s mom Yajaira Hernandez mentioned. “It represents household, unity and love. Each balloon that was launched had a bit little bit of our ache in it. The lack of a tremendous son, brother, cousin and buddy.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Six-year-old Erick Melendez, wanders outdoors the dispensary’s storefront the place his cousin, Juan Carlos Hernandez was murdered on Sept. 22, 2020. Melendez was very near Juan and two would spend time collectively virtually on daily basis, Yajaira Hernandez mentioned. Hernandez’s household associates will place a sidewalk memorial outdoors its wall. Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Members and associates of the Hernandez household put together to tape a printed poster with three pictures of Juan Carlos Hernandez over the wall outdoors the dispensary the place he labored and was allegedly murdered by suspects Ethan Kedar Astaphan, Sonita Heng and Weijia Peng on Sept. 22, 2020. The case is ongoing. Astaphan and Hold have been finally captured and arrested final November. Peng is at the moment in custody in Turkey the place he’s trying to struggle his extradition to the US. “All yr I needed to return to the final place [Juan] took his final breath,” Juan Hernandez’s mom, Yajaira Hernandez, mentioned. “That place was the place we needed to do a small vigil and pray for Juan’s soul.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union
Household and associates collect round Juan Carlos Hernandez’s grave the place Jose Guadalupe Hernandez, far proper, attaches a floral bouquet along with his son’s title to the tombstone the place a few of his ashes are buried on the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver Metropolis. Whereas describing Juan Carlos Hernandez’s father, Yajaira Hernandez mentioned: “I see a person who los his son…A person who’s stuffed with a lot ache however hides it as a result of he must be robust for his different two sons. I see a grieving father.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Shortly after Juan Carlos Hernandez’s disappearance on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, his mom, Yajaira Hernandez acquired a tattoo on her proper shoulder of a dandelion with its seeds blowing into the wind that flip into hummingbirds. A few months in the past, Yajaira Hernandez mentioned she acquired the anime like portraits of her three sons tattooed subsequent to it. “The dandelion flower means resilience to me, pure and harmless. Which is how I seen my son. I acquired it hoping that I’d be reunited once more with Juan someday, whether or not it’s right here or in heaven,” Hernandez mentioned. “The colour one is an image of my three sons in anime type. Juan cherished Naruto rising up and ’until final yr he nonetheless watched it. So getting these tattoos I really feel my son nearer to me and can carry them with me ’until my final breath.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union
Juan Carlos Hernandez’s household poses for a photograph subsequent to his tombstone on the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver Metropolis towards the top of the memorial mass held in his honor on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. From left to proper: Jose Guadalupe Hernandez (father), Yajaira Hernandez (mom), and his brothers, Joseph Hernandez, 24, and Gabriel Hernandez, 18. “One yr in the past my life was shattered in a blink of a watch,” Yajaira Hernandez mentioned. “I needed to struggle the system to ensure that them to assist me discover Juan. I jumped by means of circle and requested for the assistance from my household and my group. I began a hashtag #helpmefindjuan to place stress on LAPD to do their job. My intestine informed me from day one which the dispensary had one thing to do with my child’s disappearance and the primary week nobody believed me. I used to be grateful to have a military to assist me carry my son residence. I used to be grateful to have been in a position to be my son’s voice. Immediately, I proceed preventing to carry justice to my son. I’m nonetheless doing all I can in order that those that took his life pay for what they did. Nothing will ever carry my son again and I’ll reside with a gap in my coronary heart eternally. Shedding my son has destroyed me and has modified me in so some ways. I’m simply grateful and blessed to have a household who loves and helps me unconditionally and who walks facet by facet with me. Juan is gone in physique however his spirit will reside eternally by means of those that love and miss him.” Photograph by Jose Tobar/The Union Photograph credit score: Jose Tobar
Editors notice: Photograph alignment and picture captions showing outdoors of caption field have been corrected on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 10:35 p.m.