Family, friends honor Ally Raber with candlelight vigil, campaign to find killer

Suspect seen tossing items into motel dumpster
Posted at 5:02 AM, Jul 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-16 12:28:18-04

AURORA, Colo. -- Family members carried Ally Raber's ashes to the top of Lookout Park in Aurora Saturday night. There, friends gathered to honor her with a candlelight vigil.

The 18-year-old was found strangled at the Knight's Inn Motel on East 6th Avenue, on July 2. The man suspected of the crime, Raber's ex-boyfriend, is still on the loose.  

Arturo Garcia was spotted on security video tossing several items into a dumpster at the Motel, then taking off to the east.

"I wish they would find him soon," said Raber's friend, Anastasia Ortiz. "He may be in Mexico... he needs to get caught."

The victim's stepfather, Andy Starrett, told Denver7 that she met Garcia about a year ago and started dating him.

"The first few months of their relationship was great," he said. "He'd be at the house all the time for family movie night."

At some point, the relationship took a turn for the worse.

Starrett said Garcia became very abusive.

Court documents state that Garcia allegedly choked, beat or threatened Raber and her family. He allegedly tried to extort cash from several of her family members by threatening to release nude photos. He'd even spent time in jail, but was released 9 days before Raber was killed.

The Starretts have stepped up their social media campaign in an effort to help police track down the suspect.

"I've have a lot of friends in the El Paso area, Arizona and Mexico spreading the word, and sharing wanted posters," he said. "Hopefully we can catch him pretty soon."

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to Garcia's arrest and prosecution.

Starrett told Denver7 they're looking for ways to bump up the reward fund.

Remembering her smile

Starrett said his stepdaughter had a beautiful smile and that she loved to dance.

"She was notorious for secretly dancing downstairs while listening to music," he said. He plans to honor her love of dancing by getting a "dance related" tattoo.

Ally joined the Navy

Starrett said his stepdaughter had just joined the Navy.

"She was excited and a bit scared," he said, "but mainly excited to start a career and be like her Grandfather who retired from the Navy."

"She had a very contagious laugh," said Ortiz. "It made you want to laugh. And the way she talked, she was so sweet and caring when she spoke to somebody."

Raber's friend, Dioni Chapman, was in the car when she went to sign up for the Navy.

"She told me I had to sign up too," he said. "I'd been thinking about it."

Chapman said her friends are all still hurting. 

"This is the first death I've ever had to deal with," he said. "It's hard, especially knowing how everything still is."

Chapman said finding and arresting the suspect will not bring Raber back, or heal their pain, but it will help lift a weight from their shoulders.

"In hindsight," Starrett said, "I wish we had done more looking into domestic violence to find more ways to try to combat it, which may have resulted in a better outcome than we have now."

"You can't ground your kids when they're 18," he said, "but perhaps pushing for more friend intervention would  have made a difference. We didn't know (Garcia) had been released."