Deeply saddened but not broken, murder victims' families speak out

Published: Apr. 12, 2016 at 9:59 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - In honor of National Victims' Rights Awareness Week, local support agency Homicide Survivors is highlighting several unsolved cases in an attempt to bring closure to the victims' families.

Tucson News Now sat down with three of those families on Tuesday, April 12.

Three Tucson mothers would likely never have met, had their children not been murdered. But through Homicide Survivors, they have come together in tragedy.

They are able to support each other through their darkest days, as well as bring light and greater awareness to each unsolved case.

"I'm asking if anybody does know, will they please help me have justice for my son?" Vicki Morgan said.

Her son, 24-year-old Jesse Morgan, was murdered April 3, 2011 at Vista del Pueblo Park near Cholla High School.

Like Valerie Calonge and Tovar Salazar, this grieving mother will never be the same.

"Because my son was taken and my heart is half gone," Morgan said, looking at her son's picture. "We still haven't found out who did it."

Valerie Calonge knows her pain too well.

"I would've taken my daughter's place if I had the chance," she said as tears streamed down her face. "Because I just want her, I want her back."

Calonge nearly died at the hands of Michael Leday, who was convicted of murder after running over Calonge and two others on New Year's Day, 2014.

Calonge survived life-threatening injuries. Her boyfriend, Patrick Balbastro, and Cindy Burnett were both killed in the attack.

Six months later, her 13-year-old daughter, Maribel Gonzales, went missing. Maribel was supposed to spend the night at a friend's house on June 3, 2014.

Three days later, her lifeless body was found in a remote desert area near Trico Road in Avra Valley.

"She was a beautiful person that didn't deserve this. She didn't deserve what happened to her, because no girl deserves that," Calonge said.

Pain is what these mothers have in common. Not only have they lost children, but each unsolved case is excruciating.

"You wait to see what can happen, what can develop, what resources are out there to help you," said Tovar Salazar, whose son Tomas Tovar was murdered two years ago in the Food City parking lot at South Campbell Avenue and East Irvington Road. "I found that Homicide Survivors is what helps me because they give me hope that this will be solved."

Each of these mothers holds onto this same hope when everything else seems lost.

"We console each other, we comfort each other," Salazar said. "We hold that belief that we will know what happened to our children."

If you have any information about these unsolved murders please call 911 or 88-CRIME, the Pima County Attorney's anonymous tip line.

A reward of up to $2,500 will go to the person whose tip leads to an arrest in each case.

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.