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Only on ABC-7: Killer sentenced in 25-year old murder case, but Las Cruces family still mourns

On January 7th, 1994, Rick Soria was shot point-blank in the head at a child’s birthday party.

His younger sister, Carissa, lost her only brother when she was 16 years old.

“This anger has just been ruining my life,” Soria said. “It’s been running my life for so long. I just feel that I have to close this chapter as well.”

Rick Soria left behind a one-year-old son named Rick Jr.

“My nephew turned one on January 5th; my brother got shot on January 7th; he passed away on January 9th,” Soria told ABC-7.

Her brother’s killer, Gregorio Zavala fled to Mexico in 1994 and evaded justice for two-and-a-half decades.

“He had 25 years of being free,” Soria said. “He was able to make a family in Mexico where he was hiding. He got a new wife, he had children… but my brother was at Evergreen Cemetery.”

In 2018, Zavala was a victim in an altercation, according to a spokeswoman for the Doña Ana County District Attorney’s Office. When authorities in Mexico ran his records, they discovered he had an international warrant and extradited him to the United States.

Carissa Soria remembers the phone call.

“It was a shock,” Soria told ABC-7. They told me they got Greg and I cried. I’m not sure if I cried tears of joy or what I was feeling at the time.”

However, her brother’s murder was a cold case. Because so much time had passed, some witnesses and officers from 1994 were no longer alive or able to testify, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Much of the evidence from Soria’s autopsy file was lost in a fire in Albuquerque.

With the lack of evidence, Zavala pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced in August to seven years in prison, which includes the one year he had already served.

“I feel like I’ve been angry for 25 years,” Soria said, wiping back tears. “I have to let this go. I have to live my life.”

Even with her frustration at her brother’s killer’s sentence, Soria said she will focus on the positive memories from their childhood.

“His laugh would just carry through the house,” Soria said. “And that’s what we missed when he passed away. Hearing his laugh.”

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