TAMPA (FOX 13) - Maria Rivera-Contreras was a loving grandmother who had left Puerto Rico for a better life in Tampa. But it was in Tampa that her life was cut short.
Last summer, Maria's brother Victor says, he was dropping off food at a friend’s house on Columbus and Jefferson Street in Tampa. Maria was sitting in the back seat of his Honda Civic with her 9-year-old nephew when, suddenly, several shots were fired.
A stray bullet hit and killed Maria.
Mari Pacheco says the deadly bullet missed her son by inches. "It went over my son's head and hit her in the face.”
Tampa police investigators arrested Tyrell Warren, then 19 years old. They say he was riding his bike when he spotted a neighborhood rival and began shooting.
Early in the case, Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin was frustrated with the lack of witness cooperation. and blamed the "no snitching" code from the streets.
"We have officers who care, detectives who care and want to solve this case. And we have people who are too much of a coward to come forward,” he complained.
Several months later, not much has changed. The case has dragged on in court. Some witnesses have been hard to track down; others are less then cooperative.
But a handful have talked.
“Approximately 30 eyewitnesses that we are having transcribed, " explained defense attorney James Amarosa.
But some of those witnesses have had conflicting accounts of what happened, an issue that could spell trouble for prosecutors.
If justice ever comes for the Contreras family, it won’t be quickly.