Slow justice for murdered Parlier football coach

Justice is not coming swiftly for the family of a Parlier football coach who was murdered almost three weeks ago.
March 26, 2014 7:55:42 PM PDT
Justice is not coming swiftly for the family of a Parlier football coach who was murdered almost three weeks ago. The man accused of killing Artie Gomez still hasn't entered a plea in court.

Joel Valera wore a new uniform to court Wednesday -- a yellow jail jumpsuit that's usually the mark of a problem inmate, and a sling on his right arm. But this court appearance wasn't much different than his last two weeks ago.

His attorney asked to postpone and the undocumented immigrant accused of murdering his neighbor delayed entering a plea for another two weeks.

Fresno County sheriff's investigators believe Valera shot Artie Gomez during an argument over trash tossed into Valera's yard. At least a dozen of Gomez's family members and friends attended each hearing.

"The support has been amazing," said his brother-in-law Praxades Torres. "You know, our family is going through this difficult situation."

Gomez had six of his own kids, plus two foster kids. But he was best known in the community for shaping kids' lives on the football field, coaching at every age level over the last 20 years.

Two different fundraising T-shirts highlight the coach's best qualities.

"I mean, he's touched a lot of lives and not just the young, but also the parents, you know, getting them involved, and just wanting them to have better lives as far as getting better grades, respecting their parents, respecting their teachers and having a future for themselves," Torres said.

On the back of the T-shirt, one of Gomez's favorite bible verses and a slogan for his family in this trying time of mourning and waiting for justice. Ephesians 6:10-18, the armor of God.

"What it is is just standing firm," Torres said. "There's a lot of wickedness in this world, a lot of evil, but we just stand firm, and like I said, stand firm united."

A united community gave Gomez an electric sendoff after his funeral. With an escort from Parlier police and the motorcycle group "Cruising for Jesus", the procession passed the Parlier football stadium where he coached so many games. And as he left for the last time, the lights went out and the stadium went dark.


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