What happened to Matthew Flores?

It’s a basic human desire to have answers to the important questions in our lives. The desire is all the more intense where our children are involved. It’s difficult to forget Ed Smart’s impassioned pleas for the return of his daughter Elizabeth during the nine months she was missing, and Beth Holloway’s requests to Jordan Van Der Sloot for answers about the fate of her daughter Natalie. Right now, many parents in Japan are involved in the agonizing search for their children.

On March 23, 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle published this letter from Michael and Ellen Mauro of Providence, R.I., parents who have been searching for an answer for seventeen years.

Seventeen years ago we lost our wonderful son, Matthew Flores. Matt was a decorated Army first lieutenant and was honorably discharged after serving in the Gulf War. He was shot and killed in the parking lot as he was arriving at his job at Applied Materials in Santa Clara. To this day, the case is unsolved.

The Santa Clara Police Department and the District Attorney’s office continue to pursue the investigation, for which we are deeply grateful. Applied Materials is generously offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

To solve this case, someone needs to step forward – a witness, someone who heard a rumor, anyone with any information.

As Matt’s parents, we’re appealing to Chronicle readers to please help if they can. Anyone with information should contact the Matt Flores Tip Line at the Santa Clara Police Department at (408) 615-4817. All calls will be kept confidential.

Michael and Ellen Mauro, Providence, R.I.

When one’s child is involved, I doubt any number of years can ease the burden of not knowing. Someone does know who killed Matt Flores, just as someone knows what happened to Madeleine McCann, Michaela Joy Garecht, and Jason Jolkowski, among many others. A little bit of information could make a huge difference for Michael and Ellen Mauro.

Here are the details of Matthew’s case, from the website Unsolved Mysteries:

When Matt married Denise LePage, their friends called it the wedding of the century. Matt was a second lieutenant in the Army, who later served with honor in Operation Desert Storm. Once Matt came home to Fort Stewart, Georgia, he and Denise started a family. In July of 1993, their daughter Danielle was born. Eight months later, Matt began a promising career with a computer company based in California’s Silicon Valley. According to Denise, he traveled there for a brief training program:

“It was our new start in life as a family—us making decisions instead of the military. This was his dream come true. He finished with the military. He’d done everything right, and now he had landed the job of his dreams.”

March 24, 1994: Matt’s ninth day of training for his new job. That morning, he arrived at work and parked in the middle of the lot. Nearby, another employee sat listening to a talk show on her car radio. When a gunshot rang out, she moved to investigate. According to Sergeant George Teal of the Santa Clara Police Department, the female witness called 911 after realizing someone had been shot:

“Approximately four or five uniformed officers responded immediately, including a field supervisor. Paramedics and fire also responded immediately, but they were not able to revive him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Police found no physical evidence

Matt Flores had been shot once in the back of the head at point-blank range. He probably never even saw his killer. And incredibly, no one else did either, even though there were more than 20 people in the parking lot at the time. Matt’s Mother, Ellen Mauro, was dumbfounded as to why someone would want to kill her son:

“He was never involved in anything in terms of drugs, gambling, fooling around—any of the things that you would think would lead to being murdered. Nothing.”

Almost immediately, the investigation was hampered by a terrible piece of bad luck. Despite the presence of several security cameras in the parking lot, the killing itself took place in a blind spot—just out of view. However, one of the cameras did give Sergeant Teal his most significant lead:

“About 20 minutes before the shooting, there was a two door sport model Ford Explorer that came into the parking lot and parked in one of the parking stalls facing directly into the camera lens. A few seconds later, a two door white Ford Probe came in the same lane that Matt would take later. The Explorer backed up, followed the white Probe. The Ford Probe could look something like Matt’s rental, which was a white Chevy Corsica. About four minutes before the shooting, we see that same Explorer exiting the parking lot, and then about three minutes before the shooting, we see the vehicle come back into the parking lot and go in the direction of where the shooting occurred.”

At 8:12 AM, two minutes before the shooting, two cars entered the lot. One was driven by the female eyewitness—the other by Matt Flores. At 8:14, the murder took place just out of camera range. According to Sergeant Teal, just 20 seconds later, the Ford Explorer was seen leaving the parking lot for the last time:

“If somebody were to watch the videotape and see the activities of the vehicle that morning and to see it leave right after Matt was shot, they certainly could say the vehicle was stalking Matt that morning.”

The murderer’s car – caught on tape?

Because the Explorer initially followed a car that looked like Matt’s, Sergeant Teal believed the murder may have been a case of mistaken identity:

“Perhaps somebody went to that parking lot that morning to do harm to somebody else, and they got the wrong person.”

For Denise Flores, the reality of her husband’s murder continues to haunt her:

“Whoever did this to him, I want them to know what they’ve taken. One minute, life was great. We had everything. And the next minute, it was shattered. I don’t think she remembers him anymore. She was too little. I plan on showing her all the videos that we have so she knows what kind of a daddy that she had. But she won’t know what it feels like for Daddy to hug her. I lost everything that day.”

The case is still open and authorities hope that someone will come forward with a new lead. To date, the authorities’ most substantial clue is still the Ford Explorer videotaped in the parking lot. The vehicle is a two door sport model manufactured between 1991 and 1994. It has a distinctive black trim on its lower panels.

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