More than 50 neighbors attended a Saturday afternoon vigil for a stranger who was found stabbed to death in their historic Evergreen neighborhood in west Mesa. The vigil’s organizer, Suzanne Winckler, hoped to ensure the man’s life would be celebrated even though police and neighbors know little about him.
Miguel Jimenez-Martinez, 41, was found dead Sept. 30 near 200 W. Seventh St. by a neighborhood resident out for a walk.
Winckler spoke at the beginning of the ceremony about the complicated feelings residents are having in response to the crime. She asked everyone to submerge their feelings of fear and anger and focus on compassion and respect for life.
The vigil was continued by leaders of four Mesa churches.
The Rev. Charlie Goraieb of Queen of Peace, a Catholic church, noted that Martinez was at first anonymous in death. He said the vigil “negated that this man is a nobody.”
Goraieb focused on the “precious gift of life” as the thing on which all can agree, regardless of religious doctrine.
“Color, nationality and language are irrelevant,” he said. “We belong to each other.”
The vigil included words of encouragement, singing, prayers and recitations.
The Rev. Elizabeth Cruz of Iglesia Palabra de Vida, an evangelical church, read prayers in Spanish, then English.
“What unites us is our love,” Cruz concluded.
Liahona Second Ward Bishop Pablo Felix of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Rev. Anna Bell of First United Methodist Church also contributed to the vigil.
After the service, Winckler asked everyone to introduce themselves. Several Mesa police officers and Mesa City Councilman Kyle Jones joined neighbors and other Mesans. Some introduced themselves simply. Others spoke at length about how grateful they were to live in a community that could come together in a difficult time.
A neighbor who introduced himself as Ed called the vigil “the most dramatic display of oneness I’ve seen in a long time.” Another man appreciated people “taking time out of their hectic lives to celebrate life.”
Magdalena Schwarz, the last to introduce herself, said, “This man died for a good reason: To bring people together.”
Police said Friday they were able to contact Martinez’s family to give notification of his death. Family members did not attend the Saturday vigil.