After grandson's murder, California grandma vows to bring killer to justice

A Southern California grandmother has made it her weekly routine to visit her grandson, bringing with her his favorite toys.

She talks to him and makes him a promise over and over again, saying, "Mi hijo, you know I’m just your ‘gama’ like they say, but this ‘gama’ is your voice. I am your voice. And if you can’t be heard, you will be heard through me. And I’m going to find justice."

Her name is Juana, but she goes by Jenny, and all she wants to be called is Chavita’s grandmother – his ‘gama,’ as he used to call her. Now, she’s on a mission to find her grandson’s killer.

"I will never stop. Until the day I get that phone call from the detectives telling me 'You know, we have him. He’s behind bars'," she said. "Until then, I’m not stopping."

The justice Jenny seeks is for Salvador Esparza III, who she remembers as little "Chavita."

Chavita was only four years old when on a hot summer night in 2016, someone shot into the Altadena home where he was living with his mother. Officials said the gunman fired straight into the home, firing over a dozen times.

One man was injured in what police believe was a gang-related shooting. However, one of those bullets also hit Chavita in the head. He didn’t stand a chance and died at a hospital a few hours later. Even though she wasn’t there, that night continues to haunt her.

"I should have been there by his side and every day I apologize," she tells him. "Sorry your ‘gama’ wasn’t there. I’m sorry I couldn’t hold your hand, kiss you and say goodbye."

Evidence shows that on July 5, 2016, there was an altercation between people in the home on Figueroa Drive where Chavita was staying and others at the apartments across the street. Investigators said at 10:40 p.m., a car pulled up with a killer inside.

"A monster. A coward. He didn’t have a heart," she said. 

Police said there were plenty of witnesses that night and that people either won’t talk to them or have purposely led them in the wrong direction.

As detectives continue to search for the man they call a "child killer and a coward," Jenny is right there with them.

"Grandma Juana is a fireball. She is doing what grandmothers do," said LA County Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Sgt. Dominick Recchia. "And we respect her for it."

Her home, her heart, and even the family’s classic car all center around Chavita.

She calls detectives daily, scours the neighborhood for witnesses and emails anyone and everyone who will listen. Recently, she helped get the reward for Chavita’s killer raised to $50,000.

The unsolved murder weighs heavily on Chavita’s parents as well, and the entire family hopes the higher reward will motivate someone to come forward with information.

"We ask do the right thing or do it for the money, we don’t care. Just give us a call," she said.

Until then, fueled only by love, this grandmother plans on keeping the most important promise she has ever made.

"I’m going to find justice. I’m going to keep pushing, doing whatever I can until justice is served."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the LASD Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.