• Tears flow at a service for three victims a year after the Pizza Hut crime.
DAVID J. CIESLAK Citizen Staff Writer
Dianna Spalding couldn’t attend last night’s memorial service marking the first anniversary of her daughter’s slaying.
So she penned her thoughts for the 100 or so friends, family members and others who came to the ceremony for three Pizza Hut workers killed in a robbery-shooting.
”Lisa loved the children and the stray animals and the hurting people of this world,” Spalding wrote of her daughter, 20-year-old Melisa ”Lisa” Moniz.
”I know that Lisa smiles from above, and she’s sending her love on butterfly wings.”
It was one year ago yesterday that Tucsonans were shocked – then outraged – by the brutal slayings of Moniz, a waitress; restaurant manager Robert T. Curry, 44; and James A. Bloxham, 17, a kitchen worker at the Pizza Hut at 7920 E. Broadway.
During the memorial and candlelight vigil, at a church just a block from the now-closed restaurant, other relatives shared memories of their dead loved ones with the crowd.
Wearing a pin that contained a picture of James Bloxham, his father, Dan Bloxham, recalled family trips with his son and the love he had for animals.
”He always loved cats and dogs. He brought snakes in . . . he brought in an iguana,” Bloxham said.
Bloxham remembered that his son often struggled to get to work on time. For weeks, he said, Curry threatened to fire James but could never bring himself to do it.
”Bob could not let him go,” Bloxham said. ”Finally, Jim figured out he had to show up on time, and they got along real well. Bob was a great guy. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.”
Two Tucson men have been charged with the killings.
Christopher ”Bo” Huerstel, 18, and Kajornsak ”Tom” Prasertphong, 20, are in the Pima County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. They await trial on three counts each of first-degree murder and one each of armed robbery.
Police allege the pair decided to rob the restaurant as they ate dinner there just before it closed at 10 p.m.
The victims were shot several times. Bloxham and Curry died at the scene, and Moniz was pronounced dead a few hours later at a hospital. A pretrial conference for Huerstel and Prasertphong is scheduled Jan. 31.
During last night’s service, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 8051 E. Broadway, Curry’s sister, Kathy Weir, thanked the community for the outpouring of support she received after her brother was killed.
”The things that you gave us, the stories we shared – it’s just been so incredible,” Weir said.
As members of the audience wrapped their arms around each other or bowed their heads, a soloist accompanied by a pianist sang ”Love . . . love changes everything. How you live, how you die. Nothing in the world will ever be the same.”
And the lingering pain Weir and others felt was apparent as the crowd moved from the church, bedecked with flowers and portraits of the victims, to its darkened courtyard.
While the crowd lighted candles in memory of the victims and soft music played from a portable radio, tears began to stain the courtyard’s weathered bricks.
The candles flickered in the quiet breeze as people stood in a circle, praying and clutching each other.
”One thing I know for sure is that they were loved. They will always be remembered in the hearts of so many,” said Gail Leland, a friend of the victims’ families and coordinator of Homicide Survivors, a support group for relatives of murder victims.
As the vigil concluded and mourners blew out their candles, Darlene Vasquez of Homicide Survivors noticed that clouds had parted to reveal three tiny stars near the moon.
To her, they represented Moniz, Bloxham and Curry watching over their families and friends, who struggle without them every day.
PHOTO CAPTION: VAL CAÑEZ/Tucson Citizen
Tara Dutton, who knew the victims, takes part in yesterday’s vigil.