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Family, Others Mourn Slain Friends

Tragedy: More than 200 residents originally from a pueblo in Mexico pay respects to men shot to death New Year's Day.

January 03, 1996|ANDREW D. BLECHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — The two friends from the same pueblo came to this town to earn enough to send much-needed money home to their families in Mexico.

But Tuesday, Jesus Silva Onofre, 22, wasn't busing tables for minimum wage, and Manuel Encarnacion, 28, wasn't weeding other people's gardens.

Instead, they lay side by side in matching coffins, lifelessly clutching white rosaries. Each man with a bullet hole in his head.

The friends were killed early New Year's Day by an unknown person as they walked from a small house party near Oxnard Airport to Onofre's apartment across town. Both were shot in the head at very close range as they crossed through Durley Park near Hill and G streets. There were no signs of a struggle, police said.

Police said Tuesday they suspect robbery as the motive for the killings, which they said were not gang-related.

"There was some pocket change strewn on the ground like it had been pulled out of their pockets," Oxnard Det. Cliff Troy said.

Tuesday night, the Garcia Mortuary in Oxnard swelled with more than 200 Oxnard residents originally from Gomez Farias--a pueblo in Jalisco, Mexico, near Guadalajara--to pay respects to two of their own and donate money for their burial. Other contributions are still being received at the mortuary.

"We are a very close people," said Pedro Valencia, 34, a close friend of Encarnacion. "There are 300 of us here from Gomez Farias and we all live within three miles of each other. We are like family here."

Valencia, who worked as a vaquero, or cowboy, with Encarnacion before immigrating to Oxnard, said his friend was "like all the people from the pueblo--hard-working and fun-loving."

"He came here for the same reasons as the rest of us--to find work."

Encarnacion, who began herding cattle at age 10, had moved to the United States just seven months before his death. He lived with his brother Carlos, 22, and sister Lourdes, 30, and sent much of his wages home to his eight other siblings, Valencia said.

A soccer enthusiast, Encarnacion was still wearing his soccer cleats and shorts from a game earlier in the day when police found his body.

Onofre moved to Oxnard about two years ago to live with his older brother Adan, 26. They worked together at Fiesta Restaurant in Ventura, Jesus as busboy, Adan as a cook.

Jesus earned about $30 a day, 10 times what he earned in Mexico building adobe bricks and picking crops.

The two brothers lived a meager existence, living frugally so they could send money home to their elderly mother and 12 brothers and sisters.

"We are not in America by choice," Adan said Tuesday. "We are here because we must earn money for our family."

Adan expressed exasperation at the violence that claimed his brother's life.

"Here in America they kill for nothing," he said. "They kill you for drugs."

To draw attention to the violent deaths, two dozen Oxnard residents and church leaders lit candles and held a silent vigil for several hours Tuesday afternoon at the site of the killings.

The bodies of Onofre and Encarnacion will be flown today to the pueblo for burial later this week.

"Jesus will be buried in Mexico because that is where he is from," Adan said. "My mother and the town people are waiting for him."

It will be a traditional Catholic burial with Jesus' and Manuel's bodies carried from their homes to a church for Mass. The village will then escort the bodies by walking to the cemetery. Jesus will be laid to rest beside his father Leocadio, who died about 10 years ago.

"I don't want to feel that he is alone," Adan said of his slain brother. "His family is with him."

Carlos said Tuesday that he will remain in Mexico.

"I can't live here anymore," he said. "We came for a better life, but after what happened to my brother I know it isn't possible."

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