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Orange County

Slaying Shakes Neighborhood

In an unusual midday attack, Rosita Anaya, 58, was stabbed in her car near the front door of her favorite bakery in Orange.

November 08, 2002|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Every Sunday morning, Rosita Anaya would drive to the La Poblana Bakery in Orange's quaint downtown to pick up sweet bread for her family.

Last Sunday, she never made it home.

The 58-year-old mother was stabbed to death as she sat in her car in the bakery's parking lot on Chapman Avenue, a few blocks from the city's historic plaza. Police said robbery doesn't appear to be a motive behind the city's first homicide in two years.

"She lived for us," said Cathy Juarez, 19, one of Anaya's two children. "She was so devoted to us and protective of us.... I feel envious that other people have mothers. She was my best friend. She meant the world."

Anaya was found about 11:30 a.m. slumped over the steering wheel of her Pontiac Sunbird, which was parked four spaces away from the bakery's front door. Her windows were rolled down, her purse untouched.

"The fact that it happened in broad daylight is very unusual," said Orange police Sgt. Dave Hill.

Police said a man, described as being about 50 years old with gold or silver dental work around the edges of his teeth, was seen running from the scene. A witness said he was wearing a hat with "Coroner" across the front.

Anaya's life revolved around her children, friends and family said. Her family loved her tacos as much as she loved to eat sweets.

"The times she didn't bake, she'd buy sweets," said Mini Galvan, her best friend for 10 years.

Anaya, a single mother for 18 years, began working two weeks ago as a receptionist at a Costa Mesa insurance company. She enjoyed finding bargains at local garage sales or Goodwill stores. But her joy was staying home to care for her children.

They were her superstars. Juarez is to be married in May. Anaya's son, Tony Juarez, nicknamed Chewy because of the way he smacks on chewing gum, is a wide receiver on El Modena High School's varsity football team.

Anaya attended every game, screaming, "Go, Chewy!" and whistling from the front row of the bleachers. Students at the high school have been collecting donations for Anaya's funeral, and the football players wrote her initials on their helmets.

"She took care of everybody," said Lorenzo Calderon, 17, a senior running back. "She'd cheer really loud, and she was always full of joy."

She was so generous, family members said, that when she returned from her Sunday trips to the bakery, she would pass out pastries to neighbors as she went up the stairs to her apartment.

Her killing has unnerved merchants and customers in downtown Orange. Jose, a cake decorator at La Poblana Bakery who declined to give his last name, said customers are coming to the store only during the day now.

"It's really scary because it's very peaceful around here," Jose said. "My customers are afraid."

Customer Stacey Owens said she is keeping her children indoors and not going out at night.

"I'm afraid for my children. I'm afraid for myself," said Owens, 35, of Orange. "Nothing like that happens around here, and for someone to do it during broad daylight, it's very brave and scary."

Friends, family and strangers placed candles, roses and cards at the parking space where Anaya was found.

"You mean everything to me. I wasn't ready for this," her daughter, Cathy, wrote in a letter propped up against bouquets of flowers. "Save a place for me up in heaven. Promise me that you'll be there on my wedding day. I can't stand this pain."

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