He wasn’t involved in any illegal activity, had no known enemies and spent most weekends with his family at home in La Puente.
So when, 16 years ago, La Habra Police discovered the body of Emilio Mendivel Gomez in his truck near a local movie theater, they had many questions.
Police again are looking at the case and appealing to the public for help.
“We are going over the evidence and re-processing it because technology has changed over the years,” said Detective Craig Hentcy. “We are also tracking down family and witnesses and re-interviewing everyone.
“We are looking for any new process that may yield new results or new leads.”
Hentcy said the state is offering a $50,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction of Gomez’s killer.
On Aug. 8, 1999, Gomez left his home at about 11 a.m. to run an errand at K-Mart at Hacienda Road and Valley Boulevard in the City of Industry.
He never returned.
His wife reported him missing the next day to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Industry Station.
Gomez, a plasterer by trade, spent most of his weekends at home with his family.
Some weekends, the 67-year-old would go to the racetrack to watch the horses — one of his favorite pastimes. Gomez was a casual better, though, and didn’t owe any money because of his hobby.
Five days after his disappearance, a La Habra officer was performing a routine patrol check near Idaho Street and Imperial Highway.
The officer ran the license plate number on a gray 1996 Nissan King Cab pickup truck with light gray pinstripe detailing on the sides that was parked near the movie theaters at La Habra Marketplace.
A hit for a missing person came back.
When the officer investigated, he found Gomez’s body inside.
He had been shot and killed.
Capt. George Johnstone first took up the case in 1999, but it went cold after all leads were investigated and all physical evidence inspected.
The reward was issued in September 2000.
“His activities after he left home have never been completely verified,” Johnstone said. “He was a family guy who worked as a tradesman and he was not involved in any illegal activities or any threatening activities that we could find.”
The Gomez murder was picked up again in 2008 by Det. Cpl. Scott Irwin, a member of the department’s cold case team at the time.
The evidence was re-evaluated and witnesses were interviewed again, but the case remained unsolved.
Now, Hentcy is going at it a third time with access to new technology and the hope someone with information comes forward.
“When cases go cold it’s because we’ve exhausted everything at that point,” Hentcy said. “There may be somebody who wants to come forward who didn’t because they were apprehensive or there was something else influencing them at the time.”
Cold cases routinely are re-investigated because, as time passes, technology advances, witnesses come forward and sometimes new clues emerge.
“Unsolved murder cases never sit,” Johnstone said. “They’re always re-approached and always looked at with a new set of eyes.
“At no time are they waiting to be solved; we’re always actively investigating.”
Gomez was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, 165 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes, with a mustache.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Hentcy at 562-383-4329 or the LHPD hotline at 562-383-4358. Anonymous tips can be reported at OC Crime Stoppers by calling 800-TIP-OCCS.