MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan family is still searching for answers more than a decade after a brutal killing that has puzzled investigators.
On April 27, 2012, 72-year-old Alvaro Loera was stabbed and beaten to death in his Muskegon Heights home. His family has yet to find justice.
“What happened to him was just unbearable,” Mary Suarez, a close friend of Loera, told News 8 Wednesday. “I can’t even imagine the way that his life ended.”
Loera, an Army veteran, was well-known in the community as the owner of Flamingo II restaurant in Muskegon.
“He really did have a heart of gold,” Suarez said. “He gave so many people jobs, even if he didn’t need any employees. You always had a job.”
Loera opened the first restaurant in Muskegon Heights in 1977, Suarez said. He expanded to Muskegon on Laketon Avenue in 1990. That’s where Suarez worked for 10 years and met her husband, who is related to Loera. She remains close with the Loera family.
“That’s where everybody went,” Suarez said. “Everybody knew Flamingo’s. It was just the place to go. It was the best Mexican food in town.”
In 2000, Loera’s son, Alfonso, was shot and killed while trying to stop a robbery just blocks from their family home. He was 35 years old.
“This has happened too much in our family in fact,” Alberto Loera, Alvaro Loera’s brother, told News 8 in 2012. “Too often. For no apparent reason other than most of them being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“That family has been struck by tragedy after tragedy after tragedy,” Suarez added. “There’s just so much pain and anguish.”
In 2004, Alvaro Loera lost his wife Janie to cancer. By April 2012, his own health was failing.
“He was not a healthy man,” Suarez explained. “He suffered from black lung disease. He had diabetes. He had shingles. He had 50% lung capacity. He was on an oxygen tank 24 hours a day.”
Loera had just left the hospital after a bout with pneumonia. In a 2012 interview with Target 8, family said they were already preparing for his death. Doctors had just told the family he would go on life support soon. But instead of dying peacefully with his family by his side, he met a vicious end.
“I personally was expecting a phone call from my sister or my nieces to let me know my brother had passed away of natural causes,” Alberto Loera said. “This was something we couldn’t even fathom.”
On April 27, 2012, the family says a woman they didn’t recognize showed up at Flamingo II.
“(She) said to one of the daughters, ‘You really should go check on your dad,’” Suarez said.
Loera’s daughter and granddaughter rushed to his longtime home on Waalkes Street. They found him face down in front of his own kitchen sink, beaten and stabbed to death.
“It’s just something they’ll carry it with them for the rest of their life,” Suarez said.
It’s unclear who the woman who came to the restaurant was or what happened to her. When Target 8 asked MSP about the woman’s identity and if she was a focus of the investigation, MSP declined to comment.
“We do not make conclusions on suspect(s), motive or comment on intent while an investigation is ongoing,” MSP told Target 8.
Loera’s family believes he was murdered by someone he knew.
“His home was locked,” Suarez said. “He had a buzzer system that he had to have let someone into his home.”
Six months after the killing, the Muskegon Heights Police Department turned the investigation over to Michigan State Police. MSP told Target 8 the investigation remains open.
“There is physical evidence on the Loera homicide and comparisons can be made with suspect DNA,” MSP said. “DNA has changed over time and examinations are always updated where applicable.”
Suarez said Loera’s family members “just want answers.”
“Whatever justice looks like in this situation, somebody should be held accountable,” Suarez said.
“If you could just for a second put yourself in their shoes, how would you feel?” she asked. “He’s missed out on their weddings and the births of their children. Now there’s a whole other generation of Loeras. Some have been named after him, but they’ll never know that man because he was taken from them so tragically. It’s so unfair.”
Though Flamingo’s restaurant eventually closed, every other weekend, his children serve the food he was known for out of the Schultz Haus, a bar just blocks away from Loera’s home.
“I think this is how they keep that legacy alive a little bit,” Suarez said.
Suarez hopes by sharing Loera’s story, someone who knows something will finally come forward.
“I really hope that by saying his name, again and again, Alvaro Loera, Alvaro Loera from Muskegon Heights was murdered in his home on April 27th of 2012,” Suarez said.
The family is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone for Alvaro’s murder. If you know anything, please contact MSP’s Sixth District Headquarters at 616.866.6666 or Silent Observer at 231.72.CRIME (27463).