San Diego

Family Still Searching for Answers 1 Year After ‘Tamale Lady' Killed in Hit-and-Run

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Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things you're thankful for, but the holiday will forever be different for one Southcrest family whose loved one died in a hit-and-run case that went cold.

The crash took the life of Maria Estrada, 52, a woman known affectionately throughout the community as the "Tamale Lady." She died Nov. 15, 2019, jus days before Thanksgiving.

“They took a lot,” said Estrada’s niece Karla Ramirez. “Just the joy in the home. The love. The warmth.”

Loved ones told NBC 7s Omari Fleming that Maria Estrada served up the best tamales in town. She was killed in a hit-and-run on Nov. 15.

Estrada got the name “Tamale Lady" from the elaborate spreads she'd set up outside parks across the city. She cooked and sold tamales and other authentic Mexican cuisine.

And as Thanksgiving approaches, her son remembered the holiday dinners she cooked for her family of five children and grandkids.

"We’d wake up at five in the morning. She had like five or six pots of tamales cooking. Just the smell. We don't even do that anymore," said a tearful Jester Ramos.

Police say a white Ford F-150 pick-up truck hit Estrada then took off down Kearny Avenue near Barrio Logan.

Shortly after the crash, the family decided to take Estrada off life support.

A year later, they’re still looking for answers.

Why did you leave? I try and understand the person was scared, but maybe a year later, how can you live like that without stepping forward?" said Ramirez.

Last November, in what the family called a collective hug, more than a hundred people from the community honored the "Tamale Lady" by attending a fundraising cookout outside her Southcrest apartment.

Now as another Thanksgiving approaches, the family says there's one thing they'd truly be thankful for.

"We hope whoever it was, they find it in their heart, I think it would help us all with closure. It won’t bring her back but it will give us closure and give the kids closure," said Ramirez.

Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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