PONTIAC, Mich. - A close-knit family is struggling with the loss of a loved one as the person responsible for the killing remains free.
Family members spoke to the Local 4 Defenders, hoping their plea for justice will help solve the case.
Emilio Valdez, 20, left his mother's home on Oliver Street in Pontiac at 2 a.m., June 7, and never returned. Police said he was shot in a car outside the home.
Detectives said whoever killed Valdez knew him, and officials need somebody with information to come forward and help solve the case.
"He was funny and smart and athletic and charismatic and happy," his sister, Melissa Fielder, said. "He would light up the room. He was the life of the party. He was special. He was definitely special."
"He was a natural athlete," his sister, Charity Valdez, said. "He played basketball since he was a little boy. He loved snowboarding. He was so cute. His smile was contagious."
His sisters said they can't understand why somebody would want their brother dead.
"It's been dark and sad and confusing," Fielder said. "It's hard. A lot of us are dealing with depression and anxiety and just worried all of the time. I try to just keep praying for everyone because it's hard to watch. It's really hard to watch."
When he left the home, Valdez was carrying a bag of weed and a shoe box, officials said. Detectives said he got into a car in front of his neighbor's house, gunshots rang out almost immediately and the car sped away.
"It's such a heinous way for a young person to -- I mean, he was virtually killed from what we think -- he was getting into a car with somebody he knew," Oakland County Detective Matthew Peschke said. "It looks like things went bad. Murdered, dumped -- it's just horrible."
Valdez was shot in the chest and head. He was then brought to Osmun Lake, where detectives said he was still alive when he was thrown in the water off a dock.
"There was actually a blood trail down the dock and it led off the side where the broken rail was at," Peschke said. "That's where Emilio was found."
Valdez was killed June 7, and his body was found the next day. The car was discovered in Sylvan Lake in Waterford.
"It wasn't planned out, I think, on getting rid of him," Peschke said. "I think something possibly just went wrong and somebody panicked."
The Local 4 Defenders got access to crime scene photos inside the Grand Prix where Valdez was shot. Oakland County detectives are waiting for forensics to come back on physical evidence and are looking at cellphone records.
"From our investigation, we learned that Emilio would not get in the car with someone he didn't know, so we believe that he knew at least one of the persons that were in the car," Oakland County Detective Kevin Thomas said. "He was a good young man. Apparently, from all the people that we have talked to, he had a lot of friends. He didn't do anything wrong."
Detectives said they're received a lot of tips on the case.
"We need a firsthand account to come forward, but with someone who knows a firsthand account that can actually come to us and give us a good lead to determine who did this to Emilio," Peschke said.
Family members want an arrest. They're upset that whoever killed Valdez is free to live their life.
"It would mean a lot to my family," Charity Valdez said. "It would give my family closure. It would give us all a peace of mind and it would make us feel like we know we are doing right by our little brother, that they are finding these people who did this to him."
"If anyone is listening or if anyone is watching this, he was a good person and our family is hurting," Fielder said. "We know you might be scared to say something or come forward, but we need you more than we ever would have thought, and we don't even know you. We need your help. We need justice so that we can move on with our lives."
Anyone who comes forward can remain anonymous. Family members said Valdez had moved to Pontiac in the last year to help his mother fix up a family home to sell. He had plans to return to school.
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