Local News

A year after soldier's death, family keeps case in public eye

Posted November 29, 2018 4:47 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2018 6:38 p.m. EST

Soldiers put themselves in danger all the time, but U.S. Army Specialist Jose Melendez didn’t die on the battlefield. He died walking down a North Raleigh street.

The 31-year-old was headed to his car, getting ready to head back to Fort Bragg, when he was shot Nov. 29, 2017.

The case remains unsolved.

Melendez’s family likes to keep fresh flowers on his grave at the Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake.

“I still can’t believe that he’s dead,” his mother, Mara Ramos, said. “At the weekends, I look at the couch and I think he’s there, laying there sleeping.”

His sister, also named Mara Ramos, said the family has been “trying to stay strong for everyone.”

She’s now the same age Melendez was when he was killed.

“My brother died at 31,” the younger Mara Ramos said. “It was such a young age, and he didn’t get to fulfill all his dreams.

“The person who did it pretty much crushed it, crushed all our dreams for him,” she continued.

Melendez dreamed of being in the Special Forces like his dad was, his family said. They said he was funny, laid back, dependable and an artist.

He was shot while leaving a friend’s house in Raleigh. A 911-caller reported seeing someone run into the woods.

No arrest has been made in the case. There is a $15,000 reward for information that will help solve the case.

“I feel, wrong place, wrong time,” said Melendez’s father, Andy Ramos. “It’s just hard to imagine because he was such a good kid.”

The family released balloons at the cemetery in his honor on the anniversary of his death. They hope a vigil Thursday night in Raleigh will keep the case in the public eye.

“We just want closure more than anything else,” Andy Ramos said. “No one wants to live this long without even having an idea of what happened.”

“I thank God for giving me the strength to continue talking for my son,” he said.