Authorities seek answers on Mendoza’s death 20 years later

YUMA, Ariz. – It has been 20 years since Amberly Mendoza was sexually assaulted and murdered in her bedroom in Yuma, but her sister still remembers the chilling details like it was yesterday.

Amberly’s older sister Jordan Ferrer said, “There were a few nights she woke me up and said, ‘Jordan, there’s someone
outside my window.’ ‘You probably just heard something.’ ‘Jordan, no, I saw someone.'”

Ferrer said, “We heard a horrific scream then two men talking outside our window. We heard one guy say, ‘C’mon dude we’ve got to get out of here.’  That was weird. Being a little kid I didn’t think to say anything to anybody.”

Ferrer said, “We would leave our window unlocked and go in through our window when we didn’t want to wait for their mom to get home from work. The neighbors would see us doing it.”

The night Amberly was killed, her older sister Jordan and aunt had taken a trip to a store and noticed something strange when they got back.

Ferrer said, “We noticed a car in the driveway and noticed a guy sitting in it staring at the house. As soon as they saw us they took off so we didn’t think anything of it and went about our night.”

Diane Umphress, Executive Director with Amberly’s Place said, “The family was BBQing, family was coming and going and it got late and Amberly decided she wanted to go to bed. She was playing with her Barbie dolls and went to bed. Veronica told me this was the first night I didn’t go and tuck each one of my kids in. As a mom I always did that but was it was late and I was tired I just went to bed and didn’t know anything was wrong.”

The murder had entered Amberly’s room through her bedroom window. The next morning when Veronica called for Amberly, she knew something was wrong.

Umphress said, “She was calling her for breakfast and she didn’t come. She’s probably outside rollerblading and that’s when she went to the bedroom and discovered her.”

Ferrer and her other sister Rita went to stay the night at their Grandmother’s house.

Ferrer said, “So Amberly was going to come but she ended up staying and she was the only girl that was in the room that night.”

Ferrer said, “I was at my Grandmothers when we got the phone call, she drops the phone and runs out of the room screaming my sisters name. My aunt went to the phone. Why would my grandmother be screaming Amberly’s name?”

Ferrer said she didn’t know what happened to her sister until that night.

Ferrer said, “Never in my mind, not for one second did I think she was gone. That night we went to the police station and I saw my mom. She tells me ‘Jordan, your sister died.'”

Ferrer said after Amberly died, their home turned into a crime scene and they never went back.

Ferrer said, “I didn’t even ask why she died, I was just in shock. Just the day before I was playing with my sister and today she’s gone. I may have gone looking for the answers myself because it was too hard for my family to tell me.”

Ferrer said, “The detectives would ask us questions, ‘Has your dad ever tried to touch you? Has anyone ever tried to hurt you before?'”

Ferrer said her mom would come home from the police station in tears.

Ferrer said, “They were attacking her. They were really believing it was my parents for a long time, ‘Hey you know what’s going on, you know who killed your daughter.’”

Ferrer said her mom shared a story with her once about a strange person in their backyard. Her parents had just recently separated and she was hanging laundry in the yard.

Ferrer said, “My mom heard someone out there, our uncle’s guard dog was barking. My mom thought, ‘What is he barking at?,’ And right before she walked in the house, she heard someone go, ‘Ssh ssh, shut up dog.’ It was really dark so she couldn’t tell if she saw someone standing behind the tree or if it was her imagination. Living on our own living without my dad was very new for us. The week before she died, my uncle came and picked up his dog.”

Ferrer said it was years before she was able to talk about it.

“I really feel it was something that was planned. I really feel like it was someone who had been watching our home and our family for awhile. They watched our family, they knew when we went to bed, they knew what we were doing,” Ferrer said, “I think they’re long gone. That may have been something I did as a kid. It’s an extreme mystery, thinking they’ll never be
found they’re gone.”

Yuma Police Department, Lt. Wayne Boyd said the case was opened March 1996 and there is nothing new on the case. They are just waiting for a hit on the DNA. Boyd says the DNA is in a national database so if they find the suspect, Yuma police will be notified.

Boyd said, “All of the people of interest we have compared them against that true suspects DNA and there have been no matches.”

Boyd says there was a halfway house across the street from Amberly’s home who they questioned during the initial investigation.

Boyd said, “A lot of those people were interviewed and eliminated from suspicion back then and I believe some family members as well.”

Umphress said, “Someone really needs to come forward, even if it’s just a sliver of information it might be the sliver that we need.”

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