Seven months after a 28-year-old Oxnard man was killed defending his new wife outside an Anaheim bar, Orange County Sheriff's Department detectives asked for the public's help Wednesday in cracking a case with few leads.
Richard and Monica Zarate were celebrating their three-month wedding anniversary at Loffler's Bar on Katella Avenue on May 2 when he confronted a man he saw urinating outside in front of a woman, authorities said.
Bar security broke up the tussle, but when Zarate and his wife left the bar about half an hour later, the man with whom he had fought approached in a sedan, authorities said.
When someone from the moving sedan grabbed Monica Zarate, Richard Zarate rushed to her aid and became caught underneath the car. He was dragged nearly 200 feet and then run over at the intersection of Mac Street and Regal Avenue, authorities said.
Richard Zarate died hours later at UCI Medical Center. Witnesses described the sedan as a late 1990s or 2000 model Honda or Toyota, possibly with tinted windows and custom rims.
Monica Zarate, 35, who suffered cuts and bruises, said she remembers little of the events. "I remember being dragged, hitting the ground and looking up and seeing my husband on the ground," she said.
"I would do anything to remember, I just can't," she said. "I blame myself for him going back to save me. I've tried the best I can for the detectives, and I just can't."
At a news conference Wednesday at the Sheriff's Department, she begged the culprits to come forward. "Please help us," she said. "Turn yourself in."
She said she and Richard had dated for 10 years after meeting at a Sam's Club. In February, she said, he took her to Las Vegas on the pretext that it was a family vacation, then told her they were getting married. She said they found a chapel and a minister who looked liked Morticia from "The Addams Family."
"He told me he loved me and would take care of me and never let anything ever hurt me," she said. "He kept his word. He kept his word."
They had three children each from previous relationships, making "one complete family," she said. "He was all I knew when it came to being safe. My husband made me learn how to be a woman. How to be a sister. What a best friend was. And it's all gone."
Joe Hoskins, the lead investigator in the case, said three or four people were in the sedan. He said the incident did not appear gang-related.
"We believe it was an argument that went terribly wrong," he said. "Most of the leads have dried up at this point."
One of the suspects is described as a tall, heavyset Latino man with close-cut dark hair who might go by the nickname "Oso." Another is described as a heavyset Latina who wore a bright yellow top.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Hoskins at (714) 647-7429 or the on-duty sheriff's watch commander at (714) 628-7170.