Otay Mesa

Family of Church's Chicken Shooting Victim Still Waiting for Justice

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It was just one year ago from Friday that a young newlywed just trying to do her job was shot and killed while working at a Church's Chicken in South Bay.

She was a shift supervisor. Her name was Maribel Ibañez.

Prosecutors say Albert Lee Blake opened fire on Ibañez and other employees after he was refused service for trying to pay with a counterfeit bill.

It’s been a long year since the tragedy, but Ibañez’s family hasn’t forgotten about her or the fact that justice has yet to be served.

Emma Carla Merino spoke after court proceedings where the suspected gunman who allegedly shot and killed Merino's daughter at a Church's Chicken pleaded not guilty.

Friday's storm did not keep dozens away from a memorial for Ibañez at the restaurant. For friends and family praying over candles and Ibañez’s picture. it was as if she was killed just yesterday.

"She didn't do drugs, she didn't do nothing. She was a loving person, loving persons they don't have judgement, they killed her with no reason,” her mother Emma Carla Merino said.

At 28 years old and newly married, Ibañez had her whole life ahead of her.

“She wanted to go traveling. She wanted to have a baby,” her sister Gabriela Merino said.

Ibañez’s widowed husband Ramon Mendoza was on his way to citizenship before the shooting, but since his U.S.-born wife was killed, everything came to a halt. 

“Right now he is waiting for the court and everything, too,” Gabriela Merino said.

The case against Blake is also stalled because were closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I have seen other cases that they come out and everything and COVI-19 doesn't affect them,” Emma Carla Merino said.

Ibañez’s death left a great emptiness in the hearts of those who loved her. One year later the grief remains, and the difficulties left in the wake of the tragedy are left unresolved.

Blake has pleaded not guilty to murder charges. His next scheduled appearance is a preliminary hearing Dec. 16.

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