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KFOX14 Investigates: Family waits four years for murder trial; defense asks for more time

This month brings a painful anniversary for an El Paso family.

Four years ago Miriam Aguirre Salas was stabbed to death in her south El Paso apartment, but her alleged killer has not stood trial.

According to police -- Miriam was stabbed to death at her apartment on Florence Street and Father Rahm Avenue in South El Paso.

The suspect, Jesse Vasquez, turned himself in to police.

Miriam’s family said it cannot find peace with her death until this case is closed.

“She was the life of the party,” said sister Lorena Majallanes.

Miriam’s family remembers her as motivating, selfless and outspoken.

In her absences, three children have grown up without a mother. Her oldest daughter, Selena, was 15 at the time.

“I have to be strong for my sister and my brother since I’m the one on top,” said Selena Salas.

Miriam’s older sister, Victoria Soria, rushed to the scene the night Miriam died. A police officer told her the awful news, “He said, ‘No, I’m sorry but your sister is no longer with us.’ I just fell to the ground,” said Soria.

According to police, Jesse Vasquez broke into Miriam’s apartment that night and stabbed two other people before stabbing and killing Miriam.

Police said Vasquez had been accused of threatening and harassing Miriam.

Vasquez had previously been convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to take an anger management course.

KFOX14 reported Vasquez took a one-day course, just a few hours, before he allegedly killed Miriam.

“The more they prolong the case, I feel like they're forgetting about it and how important it is to my family,” said Salas.

It's been four years and no trial and for Miriam’s family, it's four years without justice, four years without closure.

Frustrated by the system, her family is now speaking out.

“Somebody needs to be my mom’s voice,” said Salas. “She’s not here to speak for herself, so we have to do it.”

The trial date has been reset eight different times, and the family has been turned away and sent home to wait.

“It's overwhelming. It's devastating,” said Soria. “We feel like we don’t matter, like my sister wasn't important.”

Just a few weeks ago it happened again: The family was in the courtroom when the judge granted the defense another delay, commonly called a continuance.

The waiting keeps reopening their wounds.

“The day that they told me that my mom was no longer going to be here, it's that exact moment. That exact feeling comes rushing back,” said Salas.

KFOX14 Investigates looked into the reasons why the defense team has needed delays.

Vasquez received two court appointed attorneys: Joe Spencer and Patrick Lara.

On three occasions Spencer asked the court to push back the trial date because of vacation and twice because of another capital murder case.

Lara asked for a continuance before undergoing eye surgery and then twice because of conflicts with two other trials.

“Why is that case more important than Miriam? She was a human being, she was a mother, she was a sister,” said sister Clarissa Hernandez.

Miriam’s family said it's especially frustrating to see other local murder cases resolved much quicker than its case -- cases that happened long after Miriam's death.

“It's a slap in the face, like we are not important,” said Soria.

Last fall, Lara moved to Houston and asked for yet another delay.

According to these court transcripts from September, Judge Sam Medrano told Spencer if Lara wasn’t prepared to go to trial in January, the trial would move on without him.

But then Lara was chosen to try a case before the Supreme Court.

So just days before the trial was set to start in January, Judge Medrano agreed to again move the trial from January until May.

“It is very painful every time we have to go to court. Every time,” said Soria.

The district attorney’s office could not comment on a pending case, but in court records the prosecutor asked the judge not to allow further delay.

"The family of the decedent, Miriam Aguirre, is desperately waiting for a trial. The defendant has been in pretrial detention for more than 1,400 days,” said Assistant District Attorney James Montoya.

KFOX14 Investigates spoke to Lara by phone. He said the defense team will be ready to go to trial in May. He added Vasquez has also been waiting in jail for four years, waiting for his case to be heard.

“We just want our day in court and maybe that would help us heal or cope with it. We can’t heal and cope with it,” said Soria.

A trial cannot bring Miriam back to those who loved her the most, but they believe no matter the outcome it will give them peace and closure.

“We need to move on,” said Soria.

Something they haven't had since losing Miriam.

“Hopefully May 19th, we are praying,” said Soria.

KFOX14 reached out to Judge Medrano for a comment on why he has allowed the case to drag on for so long.

He was also the judge who sentenced Vasquez to probation for the aggravated assault charge. The judge told KFOX14Texas law prohibits judges from commenting on pending cases before the court.

KFOX14 Investigates also reached out to attorney Joe Spencer and his office said he is unavailable for a few weeks.

Vasquez has been in the El Paso County Jail since turning himself in to police in 2013.

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