Funeral for Gage Park victims: ‘Was God there?’

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Six caskets of six family members found killed in their Gage Park home on Feb. 4 line the aisle at St. Gall Church, 5511 S. Sawyer, on Sunday night. | Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

Before the funeral began Sunday for the family found murdered this month in a Gage Park bungalow, somber Spanish blessings gave way to the celebratory sounds of a traditional brass Mexican band.

With the bells of its trumpets, trombones and tuba held high above six caskets at the front of St. Gall Catholic Parish, the band shook the sanctuary as mourners filed by, paying respects to victims of a crime that has shaken the Southwest Side.

But when the oompahs ended, silence filled the church — revealing a sob that rose up from the sanctuary.

Soon, the mournful tone returned to a packed-house service held to remember the six family members police think were targeted in a heinous massacre: Noe Martinez Sr., 62; his wife Rosaura, 58; son Noe Martinez Jr., 38; daughter Maria Herminia Martinez, 32; and her sons, 13-year-old Leonardo Cruz and 10-year-old Alexis Cruz.

The funeral, held largely in Spanish, took place less than a mile from the home in the 5700 block of South California, where police discovered the “bloody mess” on Feb. 4. Police are still hunting for clues in the slayings.

“We gather together as human beings, very much touched in pain, by the loss of six . . . members of our family, our parish family, the community in which we live and breath and work,” the Rev. Gary Graf said as he opened the service.

Alternating between Spanish and English during his homily, Graf spoke of the regret of the surviving family members who might believe, “if we would have been there, this tragedy would have never happened.”

“We ask ourselves, was God there?” Graf said. “Was God there when his son died on the cross?”

Photographs of the family stared back at the mourners in the church, set behind the six caskets covered with flowers during the visitation before the service. Someone placed sports jerseys on the caskets of the children — No. 32 for Leonardo, No. 77 for Alexis. The family will be buried later in Mexico.

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Jerseys were placed on the caskets of Leonardo Cruz, No. 32, and Alexis Cruz, No. 77. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

Investigators hope to speak to Armando Cruz, the father of Leonardo and Alexis, while he is in town for the funeral. He is neither a suspect nor a person of interest, CPD spokesman Frank Giancamilli said Sunday.

Police also are examining hours of video footage recovered nearby. They have downloaded video from CTA buses and a surveillance camera on a light pole at 57th and California, according to CPD.

“We still believe that this was an incident related directly to the family and not a random act of violence,” Giancamilli said in an email.

Herminia Martinez was separated from the father of her sons, who lives in Mexico but had visited Chicago as recently as Christmas, according to neighbors.

The government of Mexico has offered its assistance in the case if necessary, officials have said. Neighbors and relatives said the family was friendly and close-knit, with an extended network of relatives throughout the city, in Texas and in Mexico. Noe Martinez Sr. immigrated to the United States nearly two decades ago, and his son and daughter followed not long after.

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Photos of the slain family members were set behind the six flower-covered caskets during the visitation before the service. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

One family friend said he grew up with Noe Martinez Jr. in La Noria, a town of a few hundred in Mexico’s Guanajuato state. Martinez Sr. and his wife also have another daughter who lives in Mexico.

Investigators believe three “edge weapons” were used in the massacre. Maria Herminia Martinez was shot to death, authorities said. But her sons, Leonardo and Alexis, died of “sharp force” injuries. So did Noe Martinez Sr.

Rosaura and Noe Martinez Jr. died of a combination of sharp and blunt force injuries, according to the medical examiner’s office.

The bodies were discovered after a co-worker called 911 to report that Noe Martinez Jr. hadn’t shown up for his job washing windows at O’Hare Airport for the previous two days.

The victims were found in different areas of the home, police said. There were no signs of forced entry to the house nor was it ransacked, and the doors were locked from the inside, police said.

As the service wrapped up, two surviving members of the family — Armando Cruz and Violeta Martinez, the daughter of Noe Martinez Sr. and his wife, Rosaura — thanked the community in Spanish.

Meanwhile outside the church, six hearses waited for six caskets.

And as the hearses later idled in the street, the faces of several children could be seen watching from the windows of apartments across the street.

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