BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Buffalo police say 18-year-old Jalia Marrero was found dead in a wooded area in North Buffalo June 6. Marrero was reported missing on May 21, and she was last seen around May 8 or 9. Her family said they have not received updates or answers from law enforcement in about a month.
"It's frustrating because again we're looking at the loss of a vibrant young lady who is not spending the summer celebrating her graduation," Pastor Tim Newkirk, of GYC Ministries Community Action Coalition, said.
Jalia's family said all she wanted was to graduate high school. Her dad, Luis Marrero, was just as excited.
"He was just planning a graduation for her. That was his goal for doing landscaping jobs on the side was to have a graduation party for her," Coppola said.
But neither father nor daughter lived to see her walk across the stage at McKinley High School.
Luis was shot and killed on Donovan Drive May 4. The Marrero's family said Jalia witnessed her ex-boyfriend kill her father.
"I had to talk her into going down there and giving another statement. After that day, it's no contact at all," Coppola said.
The Marrero's family said they knew something was extremely wrong when Jalia did not come to her father's funeral.
"I set up the funeral arrangement so she could come to the funeral and view the body by herself and grieve and morn her father. We were hoping that that would make her tell the truth about what her ex boyfriend did to her father. Tell the truth, you know, open the door up for that. She never showed up," Coppola said.
Jalia's family said she was in an abusive relationship with the man who killed her father. Her family said they think she died at the hands of that same man.
"For Jalia to be carried into that field, wrapped in whatever she was wrapped in, and buried in that field, you mean to tell me that's not a homicide? She didn't put herself there," Coppola said.
The Medical Examiner's Office has not released a cause of death, so her family does not know how or when she died.
Chris Bellings, the former Homicide Chief at the Erie County District Attorney's Office, said those results could take a lot longer.
"The medical examiners office is first of all very busy. Second of all, [it's] usually chronically understaffed. They take their time to do the job correctly," Bellings said.
Now, her family is raising money for a reward and private investigator to look into the case.
"We want some legal help," Norma Coppola, Jalia and Luis's cousin, said.
The family has started a GoFundMe. They are also hosting a fundraiser on June 30 with basket raffles and a spaghetti dinner. The fundraiser runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Amnity Club.
The Marrero's family and Pastor Newkirk said despite a slow moving investigation, they know exactly who did this.
"Someone is walking around and we know that person has the responsibility of someone's life but we don't have enough evidence to prosecute them. That's what has got to change," Pastor Newkirk said.
GYC Ministries Community Action Coalition helps families search for missing persons and domestic kidnappings leading to death. The Ministry has been working with the Marrero's family since she went missing.
Buffalo Police said they have not received an official cause of death from the medical examiner's office. BPD said this is an active investigation, and it is working closely with the Erie County District Attorney's office. 7 News reached out to the District Attorney's office but did not hear back.