Looking back on coverage of Vicente Mundo and Cristian Zamora

By Charlotte Collins

Vicente Mundo was reported missing from his apartment on campus on Jan. 27. He had been missing since Jan. 25 https://www.dailyillini.com/news/article_60a77882-bbab-11e4-bbf1-c3828976f095.htmlafter he left his apartment between 6 and 7 p.m. He told his roommates he would be right back.

On Jan. 31https://www.dailyillini.com/news/article_60a77882-bbab-11e4-bbf1-c3828976f095.html, a body found near a rural Tolono road was identified as Mundo’s.

The junior in LAS was an avid video game player, a statistics major, a Blackhawks fan and according to his older sister, Julieta LaMalfa, he had a childlike gentleness about him.

“Please remember him as someone who is very kind, very loving, very innocent, full of life, full of hope, and that he had a great experience here,” LaMalfa said.

Daniel Gonzalez and Reginald Scott were arrested Feb. 2https://www.dailyillini.com/news/article_60a77882-bbab-11e4-bbf1-c3828976f095.html in connection with the murder. According to Champaign County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Christopher Darr, the two had plans to rob Mundo of cannabis and cash during a drug deal previously planned between Mundo and the two.

Plans to meet Mundo in his apartment were changed last minute to the garage of the apartment instead, in Gonzalez’s car. Scott hid behind the passenger’s seat and when Mundo discovered that the nature of the meeting had changed and that he was going to be robbed, he tried to escape from the vehicle. Scott emerged from behind the passenger’s seat and confessed later that his pants got caught up in the trunk from his concealed position. He panicked as a result and shot Mundo. The two disposed of his body by a row of trees in Tolono where it was found approximately a week later.

Cristian Zamora went missing from his Urbana apartment on Dec. 31.

He had graduated from the University in May 2014 and according to his family, he had plans to write a book. His aunt, Jeannie Douglas, called him a “go-getter.” His friend and 2011 University graduate, Brian Kung, described him as a “bright flame” in the lives of those who knew him. To his friend and University junior, Cody Jones, his optimism was contagious. To his mother, Sandra Carrion, he was kind, friendly, a goal-setter and a dancer.

“(Dancing is) his passion,” said Carrion. “Everywhere he would go, he would start dancing. It was amazing. It is amazing.”

Zamora was reported missing by Carrion on Jan. 5. He was found dead the afternoon of March 6, submerged under the ice of Crystal Lake Park in Urbana. The Champaign County Coroner said in a press release on March 7 that the autopsy revealed no evidence of trauma or foul play and ruled the death an accidental one from drowning in cold water.

Gioconda Guerra Perez, director of La Casa Cultural Latina at the University, provided space for the families of Mundo and Zamora while the searches were ongoing for both. She also worked to organize a vigil for Zamora at La Casa and spoke of the importance of coming together as a community in the wake of a loss.

“We hope there isn’t another tragedy, but at least the students and their family know that if something happens, they have a place here where they could get the support that they need,” Guerra Perez said. “That, for me, is community, that people back home in Chicago or New York or Argentina or whatever their home is, they know that somebody here cares about them.”

The two families were a support system for each other during the overlapping times of their missing loved ones.

“Nobody should have to go through this,” LaMalfa said.

She asked Zamora’s family to spend time with them during the some of the period in which the two were both missing. The Zamora family had previously reached out to Mundo’s sisters when they saw coverage of Mundo’s disappearance on the news.

“I reached out (to the Mundo family),” Carrion said. “We were going through this for three weeks already, we knew exactly how she was feeling in the trying times. We just wanted to, as support, just so they’ll know what we’re going through, to know that we are here.”

Even when the search was over for Mundo, LaMalfa maintained hope to find Cristian and to find closure for the Zamoras.

“My biggest worry was always that he was suffering,” LaMalfa said of her brother. “At least I know he’s not suffering.”

LaMalfa said she was in attendance at Zamora’s wake.

She feels she has found closure for herself and that her family members have each been healing in their own ways. She wants people to know about a quote her brother posted online in 2011 which she feels embodied him. It will be engraved on his urn.

“No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile.”

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