'A blessing for us': Strangers put up tree, raise money, gifts for missing mom's family
The mother of a missing Woodburn mom shed tears of gratitude Sunday after strangers reached out to help with a tree that symbolizes hope.
"This is so great," said Angelica Castillo, the mother of Cynthia Martinez-Perez, who went missing in July. "It's a blessing for us."
Police are still looking for Martinez and 30-year-old Jaime Alvarez-Olivera, a man she was last seen with.
Martinez's four kids are without their mom this holiday season, which is what employees and customers at Rocco's Bar & Grill in Salem said their effort is all about. They've begun gathering gifts for the children in the spirit of Christmas.
"The tree was a gift from our friend, Tim, here," Brenda Garcia, the bartender who orchestrated the effort, told KATU at the business Sunday evening. "I had a family member who was missing before and so it’s just kind of always been on my mind and in my heart to share her story constantly.”
Garcia said she's never met Martinez but when she saw her story in the news over the summer, her heart sank.
"Kind of you heard about it and then all of the sudden you didn’t hear about it anymore," Garcia said.
Martinez left Tequila Nights Bar & Grill on River Road North in Keizer at about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 16.
“It was her birthday and she was out celebrating," her stepdad, Cesar Castillo, explained.
He and Angelica said Cynthia hasn't been seen or heard from since.
"We think about her every day. We need her back," said Angelica. "It’s really hard for us to even – for me to sleep at night.”
Martinez was seen leaving the bar with two men, officers said, including Alvarez-Olivera, who was named as a person of interest in the case. Witnesses saw them drive away in a blue 2004 Honda Odyssey minivan.
Investigators said they’ve located the vehicle. Anyone who recognizes it is asked to contact the Keizer Police Department to help with the investigation.
Alvarez-Olivera's whereabouts are still unknown.
Martinez's parents are taking care of her four children. They said between work and watching her kids, they're unable to always keep their missing daughter's name and story out there.
"It's just really hard and the thing is a child that age from 9 to 7 months, there’s no way to make ‘em feel better," said Angelica.
Garcia and others at Rocco's contacted the couple to find out how they could help.
They decorated the tree with ornaments bearing the names of Martinez's children along with gift ideas for each of them.
"This helps a lot, you know, trying to put information about her back," said Angelica. "It’s bringing, thinking about Cynthia, you know, the whole community not just us as parents.”
Angelica and Cesar believe Alvarez-Olivera is no longer in Oregon, possibly in California.
Garcia is also raising money for a reward.
“People talk when there’s money involved," she said.
A benefit for Martinez's family is scheduled at Rocco's at 8 p.m. on Dec. 22.
If you have any information that can help investigators you're asked to call Keizer police at 503-856-3529.