By: Claudia Rivero
A nightmare. That's how Nancy Peña describes what life has been like ever since her twin brother Horacio was killed — shot multiple times outside his home in Phoenix, Arizona — on June 3, 2016.
The pain so overwhelming and paralyzing, Nancy says it's been hard to function. She lost a job and at times felt her life spiraling out of control.
"It's been a horrific journey," Nancy told me recently via an email.
Phoenix police linked Horacio's case to a string of random shootings carried out by the so-called "Phoenix Serial Street Shooter" — a phantom gunman who targeted men, women, and children mostly in the West Phoenix community of Maryvale — from August 2015 to July 2016.
A break in the case came in April with the arrest of former bus driver Aaron Juan Saucedo for the 2015 shooting death of his mother's boyfriend, Raul Romero. The following month, on May 8, investigators announced Saucedo, 23, was also the prime suspect in the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter case. They also added the shooting death of Jesse Olivas, 22, to the other seven linked to that investigation.
But it took nearly two months for Saucedo to be officially charged in the serial shooter investigation. Nancy says she began to question whether the cops had the right guy. Even worse, she feared her brother's murder would remain unsolved.
"I was driving myself crazy with so many questions," Nancy said.
On June 27, a grand jury handed up a 20-count indictment of the former bus driver. In addition to the shooting death of his mother's boyfriend, Saucedo is now officially charged with eight more counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, six counts of drive-by shootings, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of discharging a firearm and one count of endangerment.
Below is Nancy Peña's response to the indictment. She sent it to me on July 4.
What was your reaction when you heard about the grand jury's decision?
Relief. For the past few weeks I started feeling doubtful that he'd be officially charged with the shootings. It was going on almost two months since he was booked, and yet he was only being held in jail for the murder of Raul Romero (his mother's boyfriend). I was naive in the beginning thinking that he would definitely be facing charges for the serial shootings, but a month into it I couldn't find anywhere in print that he would; he was only being named as the prime suspect.
Then on June 19, when they released the date of his trial it was only for the killing of Mr. Romero. That is when I started to wonder if they even had the right guy. Why was it be taking so long to indict him, especially in such a high-profile case? Did they not have enough evidence? I was driving myself crazy with so many questions. So when they officially charged him I wanted to fall to my knees. It felt like my fight to do anything needed to get the person responsible caught was finally over.
I could finally grieve the loss of my twin brother without the distraction of knowing the suspect was still loose. The interviews we all did to keep this case out there were all emotionally draining. Where we would be advancing in our grieving process, we would take two steps back after an interview because we had to continually relive it in order to answer the questions. I've lost a job because of it. It's been a horrific journey, but to know he will no longer cause other families to hurt the way we have is such a relief.
How did you find out about the indictment?
Through media reports. I set up an alert on my email to get updates on the case, and that's how I found out. The media has been the one keeping us informed unfortunately, and it's been frustrating to have others ask me how I felt about the latest turn of events and me not knowing what they were talking about. I'd have to Google it to get more information. But with that being said, I know that officers have put countless hours into this case to get us to where we're at now. I hope they know I will be forever grateful to them for that. -Nancy Peña
UPDATE: According to local news reports, attorney's for Saucedo waived his presence in the courtroom for his arraignment on July 6. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His next court date is set for August 16.