The family of Xiomara Fernandez is struggling mightily in the wake of the Long Beach 9-year-old's death, grappling with the pain of her slaying, allegedly at the hands of her stepfather, the only dad she ever knew.
Xiomara's mother, Graciela Fernandez, is functioning in a state of deep shock, as are her five other children, ages 21 to 1 1/2 years old.
The family is struggling to raise around $15,000 for funeral and burial expenses and has been washing cars to raise funds, she told the Press-Telegram at her Central Long Beach home Wednesday.
Now there is the added pain caused by revelations the suspect, 31-year-old Jacinto Zuniga Trujillo, not only stabbed his stepdaughter to death, but also allegedly molested her for the past six months. Trujillo, who had suffered self-inflicted stab wounds, and Xiomara were found Saturday near an East Long Beach church.
"Since November ... six months," Graciela Fernandez asked her daughter earnestly in Spanish as tears slipped down her cheeks.
Alma translated for her mother and explained that neither she nor anyone else in the family saw any signs of abuse. Xiomara was a bubbly, happy little girl; full of energy and talkative at school.
Though Trujillo wasn't Xiomara's biological father, he has raised her since she was only a few months old, the victim's mother and sister explained. Alma had a total of five siblings, an older brother and two older sisters - including Alma - and two younger sisters, both of whom are Trujillo's biological children.
Xiomara learned Trujillo wasn't her biological dad about a year ago, but it didn't matter. She was a daddy's girl and loved Trujillo with all her heart, Alma said.
Trujillo was recently unemployed and would care for the children while Graciela was at work, though he often took them to their aunt's house where they played with their cousins, Alma explained.
None of the women ever saw any signs of abuse, either physical or psychological. Alma said she has known Trujillo since she was about 11 years old and never suspected anything was wrong, though he did seem depressed and angry at times, particularly after he lost his job.
"(Xiomara) came to stay at my house. ... She never said anything," said Alma, who is married. "Maybe she was too young, she didn't know how to tell us."
The news of the molestations was almost as hard to take as finding out Xiomara had been killed, she said.
Alma and her mother had been worried about Xiomara and Trujillo for about a day prior to learning of her slaying, after Trujillo and Xiomara failed to return from a visit to the home of Trujillo's parents in Buena Park on Friday afternoon.
Alma, her mom and her older siblings spent all day Tuesday and Wednesday washing cars to raise money for the funeral. They plan to do so again Friday and Saturday at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Cherry Avenue, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
So far they've raised $2,300. A local radio station gave them a check for $1,000 and the Long Beach Police Department Homicide Unit is helping the family set up a fund for the public to donate to after being contacted by numerous people wanting to help.
"It's not something we do very often," said Homicide Sgt. Erik Herzog. "This is a special case."