Delano remembers life of beloved community member

DELANO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The Delano community came together Friday to remember 88-year-old John Espinoza, the victim in an ongoing homicide investigation.

"He knew practically everybody in town," said Jeff Hernandez, Espinoza's former neighbor.

Friends and family who gathered for the funeral described Espinoza as a well-known figure in the community, who worked as a barber and was involved in local politics.

Virginia Becerra's brother was life-long friends with Espinoza, who later married one of her friends.

"I've known him since the 1940s," she said. "He was my husband's barber for years."

She remembers him, along with the good times.

"Just what they used to do when they were young," she reminisced of Espinoza and her brother, "partying and things like that."

Jeff Hernandez remembers the simple things.

"Every time I think about him, I always see him in his front yard, working," said Hernandez. "He was always cleaning his front yard."

Espinoza was reported missing on Sept. 18. The next day, investigators pulled his car from a canal.

His body was found in the trunk.

"I know that everyone has to die sometime," said Bernice Bonillas, a longtime friend. "You know he was 88, but not in that manner."

The crime still shocks the community.

"It had to be someone that didn't know him, because if you knew him there's no way that could occur," Bonillas said.

Delano is not a wealthy city, but the community has so far raised more than $13,000 in reward money, in hopes of finding Espinoza's killer.

For most, getting justice for him is the least they can do.

"It's kind of cold what happened to him, and everybody's pretty solid in hoping they find the person that did this to him," said longtime friend Ernie Perez-Leon.

Hernandez left a plea to whoever is responsible: "Turn yourself in. That was wrong what you did. He was a good man. He didn't deserve to go like this."