Esme Barrera, a teaching assistant, music store employee and camp counselor, has been identified as Austin's first homicide victim of 2012, killed in her Texas home at around 3:00am on New Year's Day.
Esmeralda (Esme) Barrera, 29, was attacked inside her home in the 3100 block of King Street. Two other, similar attacks on women in the area may be related to the apparently random killing, but police have yet to officially link the three cases.
Woman Murdered in Austin Home
Esme Barrera was found seriously injured at 2:45am by a friend who had been celebrating the New Year with her earlier.
The friend called 911, but it was too late: police report that the 29-year-old had already died of her injuries.
Speaking to the press, Police Commander Julie O'Brien declined to say how Barrera died. Police are seeking information from the public about the young woman's murder, and are investigating whether or not the New Year's homicide is connected with two other attacks on women in the area.
Two Other Attacks
At around 2:00am New Year's Day, a woman was walking near 31st and King when a man attacked her.
Suddenly he was behind me, he grabbed me, wrestled me to the ground and hit my head against the ground, the woman said.
According to KXAN, the man ran away when the victim, who wished to remain anonymous, began to scream. Her description of her attacker was used for the police sketch now being blanketed across Austin, Texas.
According to Austin police, a third woman was also attacked in the aftermath of New Year's Eve. Like Barrera, she was assaulted in her home, some two hours after the 29-year-old was killed.
She did not get a good look at her attacker, who fled after inflicting minor injuries.
'He said that there was an accident.'
As police continue to search for the suspect in the two attacks and Esme Barrera's killing, neighbors and residents of Central Austin found the homicide, the first recorded murder of 2012, a scary way to welcome in the New Year.
[I] saw flashing lights, came and investigated, Jeffrey Squires told KVUE. [I] saw the police car was blocking the street here, and asked the policeman what happened down here.
He said that there was an accident.
'She had more personality than could fit in one body.'
For Esme Barrera's friends and family, however, her death means the loss of a bright, shiny light in a year that has begun in darkness. Barrera's family could not be reached for comment, but local news sources report that her relatives have been notified.
Esmeralda Barrera, known as Esme, was an El Paso, Texas native who friends say brought a sunny attitude and nonstop energy to everything she did, whether it was working with special needs children at Casis Elementary School or as a part-time employee at Waterloo Records.
[Working with special needs children] takes so much patience and dedication, and she was amazing at staying centered and positive, said Emily Gross, who knew Barrera from Casis Elementary. Even in trying situations, she was steady ... she was able to transfer all of her positive energy onto the kids.
Allison Kemp, Allison Kemp, Barrera's co-worker at Waterloo, agrees. There was no way that after being around her for 10 minutes that you couldn't love her, she told The Statesman. She had more personality than could fit in one body.
While she worked at Casis and Waterloo, Barrera was also taking college courses to get her teaching certificate. A huge rock fan, she worked as a counselor at a day camp called Girls Rock Austin over the summer, where staffers work to empower middle and high school girls by helping them write and perform songs.
Esme's infectious smile, her kindness, and her incredible sense of boundless encouragement touched us all, the organization said in a statement. She embodied all of the values of the girls rock movement.
'She was just this bright, shiny light.'
In the hours and days following Esme Barrera's death, the first recorded homicide of 2012, friends, co-workers and loved ones began memorial blogs, online tributes and even reddit appeals to catch her killer.
Friends have started a blog called forouresmeb.blogspot.com, with a fund established to help Barerra's family pay for funeral expenses.
Dave Stripling, a friend, has started a blog in memory of Barrera, and is asking users to post photos, stories and music they shared with the rock lover.
Alyx Vesey, another friend, wrote a tribute to Esme Barrera on Feminist Music Geek, calling her a model counselor who gave the gift of listening and helping anyone who needed her.
A reddit user even took to the social media site to plead for any information regarding Barrera' murder, begging any and all witnesses to come forward and solve the crime.
Everyone seemed to have the same impression of [Barrera], whether they were a parent of a student or were meeting her at a rock concert, Gross said. She was just this bright, shiny light.
The woman assaulted on King Street has provided a description of her attacker, and police have released a sketch of the man believed to be involved.
The suspect is described as a black man, approximately 30-40 years old. He is described as roughly 6 feet tall and muscular, with large brown eyes. The suspect was wearing a dark gray, hooded jacket over a dark tee shirt and jeans.
Anyone with information on the attacks should call the Austin tip line at 512-477-3588 or Crimestoppers at 512-472-TIPS.
Upon hearing of Berrara's death, Waterloo Records posted a single word, Heartbroken, on its Facebook page early this morning. More than 40 friends gathered at a West Side bar Monday night wot pay tribute to the murdered young woman.
Her friends believe that Barrera was followed while walking home from a New Year's Eve party that night.
She was a fierce friend and full of fire in her belly. ... I can't think of one bad thing Esme did, Christopher Bailey, who met Barrera about 10 years ago, told The El Paso Times. I found out about it yesterday, and I don't think I've stopped crying since.