The teen who murdered my son escaped police: my family hunted him down and captured him

On the stretcher, Tomi looked like he was sleeping. I started asking him to wake up; to come home. My pleas grew louder and more desperate until I fainted. When I awoke, I lay in a hospital bed.

  • 3 weeks ago
  • May 2, 2024
7 min read
The family of the murdered 18-year-old soccer player commissioned a mural in honor of Tomi. | Photo courtesy of Mariángeles Alderete The family of the murdered 18-year-old soccer player commissioned a mural in honor of Tomi. | Photo courtesy of Mariángeles Alderete
journalist’s notes
interview subject
Mariángeles Alderete, 42, resides in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. As a mother of five, including her son Tomás, she embraces the joys of family life, further enriched by her six grandchildren.
background information
Tomás Sánchez, an 18-year-old who played soccer for the youth team of the Midland club, tragically lost his life in October 2023. He was murdered in the Libertad neighborhood of Merlo. The main suspect in the case is a 16-year-old, identified only by the initials T.I., who escaped from the “Eva Perón” Closed Institute for Minors in February. Following the escape, Tomás’ family initiated a campaign on social media seeking the minor’s capture. The family is also pressing for the arrest of other youths who were with T.I. on the night of the crime. The legal process is ongoing, with the accused awaiting further proceedings in another Juvenile Institute. For more details, go to Clarin.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — On October 28, 2023, my son Tomi and his girlfriend Male joined us for family dinner at home. As we finished the meal, Tomi and Male headed out for the square to hang out before turning in for the night at Male’s place six blocks away. He kissed me on the forehead and said, “I love you. See you tomorrow.” That marked the last time I saw my son alive.

At half-past 2:00 a.m., my phone ringing jolted me awake. I thought it might be the hospital calling about my father, who had been there for some time. When I picked up the phone, what I heard blindsided me. “Tomi had an accident with his motorcycle,” one of his friends said, his voice shaking. I felt confused. Tomi didn’t even ride a motorcycle. “You have to come to the hospital,” Tomi’s friends urged. “We’ll pick you up now.” They left no room for questions. As I scrambled to make sense of the information, I called my other children to let them know.

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Mother arrives at hospital swarming with police

Soon, Tomi’s friends pulled up in a car to take me to the hospital. I braced for news of a broken bone or some small injury from a motorcycle fall. Their tears and their silence, however, gave me a sense of dread and I pressed for details. Just blocks from the hospital, one of them finally took my hands, met my eyes, and said the words that fell like stones: “Mari, Tomi was shot.” At that moment, it felt as if the world crashed around me.

We arrived at the hospital to find it swarming with police. Unknown to me at that moment, Tomás already died. I rushed from the car, desperate to see my son. At the emergency room entrance, three policemen ushered me through the doors. Inside, about 10 doctors waited, and one asked me to sit down. “No, I want to see my son now,” I replied.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my daughter-in-law and a group of kids, all in tears. I urged the doctor, again, to let me see Tomi. With a heavy heart, he finally broke the news: “I have to tell you something. Tomás passed away.”

The doctor’s words tore my heart apart and at the same time, part of me refused to accept it. I moved on autopilot, driven by the need to see my son. When I reached him, he lay peacefully on a stretcher, his eyes closed. I saw no blood and no visible marks of the bullet.

Mother catches herself waiting for her murdered son to drop in for a snack

On the stretcher, Tomi looked like he was sleeping. I started asking him to wake up; to come home. My pleas grew louder and more desperate until I fainted. When I awoke, I lay in a hospital bed. Doctors placed me under observation for a while as the world moved around me. My other children paced and my ex-partner, Tomi’s father, stood nearby. Nothing made sense to me. Sedated, I struggled to process any emotions as thoughts swirled in my head.

Tomi and Mariángeles prior to his murder. | Photo courtesy of Mariángeles Alderete

Going home felt excruciating. Living in the same space where I shared so many moments with my son creates a sense of continuous torture. Every sound teases the possibility of his presence; every time the gate creaks open, I look up expecting to see him walk through. In the kitchen, I catch myself waiting for him to drop in for a snack. I wait for him, even though I know he won’t come home. Some days, the weight of his absence becomes unbearable.

Who can prepare for something like this? We brace for loss when a loved one falls ill, knowing the possibility of losing them exists, but Tomi was young, healthy, and happy. The killer stole him from me and I imagine wherever Tomi is, he feels frustrated seeing me so sad. He used to say, “Mommy, get up, there are worse things,” when I was down. In the initial months after losing Tomi, I felt furious with life and God, unable to accept such an injustice. Over time, the anger gave way to a deep sadness.

Tomi’s murderer threatens the family, escapes the police

I often thought about the 16-year-old boy who took my son’s life. Initially, I pitied the teen, thinking he ruined his future. However, when he escaped police custody in February 2024, he began to threaten me on a daily basis. Naturally, any sympathy vanished. It became clear he harbored no remorse. He taunted us on social media, hurling insults and threatening to come after us one by one.

One day, he posted photos of himself two blocks from my home. Then, on TikTok, he commented on photos of my daughter-in-law, Tomi’s girlfriend, saying, “Make a little space in the drawer, I’m coming for her now.” This situation plunged me into profound fear.

For a month, sleep alluded me. The mere sound of motorcycle engines struck terror in my heart, mistaking them for gunshots. I sought police protection but could not calm down. Even a simple trip to the store three blocks away felt nerve-wracking. I constantly looked over my shoulder, fearing an attack.

In March, we discovered through Instagram, the boy was hiding at his mother’s house. We went there to hand him over to the authorities. We had no intention of harming him; we just wanted justice. When we arrived and alerted the police, their response proved frustratingly slow, giving him time to escape over the rooftops. I returned home feeling defeated and fearful the threats would never end.

That night, around 3:30 a.m., screams outside my window startled me awake. A man shouted that they caught Tomás’ murderer. My son, who lives next door, met me outside and said, “Mommy, go to the police station. I’m going to take him there.” He had Tomi’s murderer in his car. I pleaded with him not to, fearing it was a trap and something might go wrong.

When the police fail to recapture the murderer, family takes things into their own hands

I took off running to the police station six blocks away. A surge of adrenaline propelled me at full speed through the dark streets. I crossed the train tracks and saw my son’s car speeding ahead. Hope surged in me. I arrived at the police station breathless and found my son in tears. “That’s it, Mommy, it was him,” he sobbed. We sat together, overwhelmed, crying out the pent-up fear and stress. For a while, the tears wouldn’t stop. I went into what felt like a nervous breakdown. The whole thing felt unreal, like we were in a movie. It still feels hard to believe.

A mural painted in honor of Tomi, pictured with the whole family. | Photo courtesy of Mariángeles Alderete

Tomás was the baby of our family, the last of my five children. From the moment I became pregnant, he felt special. I cherished every moment of my pregnancy and his early years. At birthday parties, Tomi always sang the loudest. Every day, I think of him. The mural we created featuring all his favorite things, feels like a little shrine. I talk to him as I pass by it, keeping his vivid presence in my life.

Though I face a palpable void, I move forward for my children and grandchildren. Dealing with the loss of a child creates unimaginable grief. Our situation was made worse when my son’s murderer escaped and threatened our entire family. I never imagined we would have to play police officers, tracking down and handing over his teenage killer ourselves. After Tomás’ death, I spent a week in intensive care. I recovered, and today, I remember him. Tomás fully embraced life. He showed affection openly and brought laughter with his constant humor. He was a light that shone brightly for all to see.

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