By SARA MACNEIL, for Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A month after Maryuri Aleman Cantillano disappeared and two weeks after the Montgomery teen was found stabbed to death, her former employers have increased reward money in hopes of finding who killed her.
“Whoever did this has to pay,” James Brown, a former employer of Cantillano, said Wednesday. “There has to be justice for Maryuri. You feel anger because it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It’s unfortunate it takes money to get answers from people sometimes. At this point, we’re desperate. We just want answers.”
Cantillano, 17, was last seen March 31. Nearly two weeks later, her body was found in a tree line a couple of streets away from where she lived. Cantillano was listed as a runaway by police until she was found stabbed. Her family had insisted she was not a runaway and was in danger.
Director of Central Alabama CrimeStoppers Tony Garrett said calls and viable tips have come in since this week’s announcement that reward money increased from $7,500 to $10,000. CrimeStoppers sends police tips that include specific details like dates, times, locations and names.
CrimeStoppers doesn’t normally comment on the amount of tips received, but Garrett confirmed multiple calls regarding Cantillano.
“Calls are frequent as far as related to this particular case,” Garrett said.
Garrett said viable tips are those that include specifics like who, what, where, when and why.
“We received some tips that we deemed as viable that we sent to investigators,” Garrett said.
Garrett said he couldn’t comment on the content of the information reported to CrimeStoppers.
“We don’t want to give any false hope,” he said.
Cantillano was part of the isolated Latino community in Montgomery and her family and friends are mainly Spanish speakers. When Cantillano went missing it was difficult for them to get information out about her disappearance.
Because Cantillano was listed as a runaway, the search for her was initiated by her family. The family’s search extended to other parts of the state including Hayneville and Selma.
Brown said the police investigation into Cantillano’s disappearance was poorly handled, but didn’t place all the blame on the Montgomery Police Department. He said MPD had limited resources due to the coronavirus pandemic. Miscommunications and division between family and friends also hurt the search for Cantillano, Brown said.
MPD spokesperson Regina Duckett said there were no updates on the investigation into Cantillano’s death.
“This investigation is ongoing and there is nothing additional available at this time,” Duckett wrote in an e-mail.
Brown and Edgar Valerios own La Taquiza Mexican Restaurant, where Cantillano worked. Jair Lopez operates Radio Digital Estrella, where Cantillano volunteered. Together, the men donated $2,500 to the reward fund.
Montgomery City Councilman Oronde Mitchell, who serves District 6 where Cantillano was found, also donated $2,500 to the fund. CrimeStoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest.
“People are really fed up with crime and want Montgomery to be a safe place,” Mitchell said. “We’re hoping that reward leads to tips and tips lead to an arrest and the arrest leads to a conviction.”
Mitchell said he hopes someone will come forward about Cantillano’s death while he’s passing out posters about the reward near Troy Highway, where Cantillano was found.
“Maybe somebody will be more comfortable talking to me than they would a police officer,” Mitchell said.
Since the reward increase was publicized, CrimeStoppers has also received information about other unsolved cases, which is typical, Garrett said.
“Even if we don’t get information on this particular case, we’ll get information on other cases that have been sitting dormant . . . a person that may be holding onto information from another crime . . . it may touch those heartstrings . . . feeling guilt about something they know about or another case they know about,” Garrett said.
Anyone with information can call the CrimeStoppers 24-hour tip line at 215-STOP (7867) or download the P3-tips app. People can also call MPD at (334) 625-2831.
Sara MacNeil can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sara_macneil.