Family of Tempe woman speaks out about her unsolved killing | Phoenix New Times


Family of Mercedes Vega speaks out about her unsolved torture, killing

The 22-year-old Tempe woman was shot, beaten and burned alive inside a vehicle on Interstate 10 in April.
Mercedes Vega was killed in April and the homicide remains unsolved.
Mercedes Vega was killed in April and the homicide remains unsolved. Phoenix Police Department
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It's been seven months without answers for family and friends of Mercedes Vega, the 22-year-old Tempe woman who was tortured and found dead in a burning vehicle in April.

So her parents and several friends took part in an emotional press conference on Tuesday to call attention to the unsolved killing and urge anyone with information about the case to report it to Silent Witness.

"She didn't deserve what happened to her," said Erika Pillsbury, Vega's mother. "The person who did this had no right to take her away."

Police found Vega's body in a fiery vehicle on Interstate 10 just west of Tonopah at around 12:30 a.m. on April 17. State troopers responded to the vehicle fire and called in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office after discovering Vega's body. She was shot, struck in the head and had bleach poured in her throat before dying of smoke inhalation, according to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner.

Vega's loved ones begged people on Tuesday to share any information that could help them find justice.

"I need someone to come forward," said Thomas Pillsbury, Vega's stepfather. "You have a conscience. Think of what happened to her. Would you want that to happen to you or someone you know?"
click to enlarge Parents of Mercedes Vega
Erika and Thomas Pillsbury urged people to come forward with any information about the killing of their daughter during a press conference on Tuesday.
Serena O'Sullivan

Reward offered in killing of Mercedes Vega

Vega's mother said she wanted to share details that would help jog someone's memory. For instance, Vega didn't die in her own car. Her vehicle was found in the parking lot of the Culinary Dropout near Mill Avenue and Fifth Street.

"I think it's important that her car, a 2019 white Dodge Charger, had the 'LUV333' license plate, so it may be an identifier that someone might have recognized," Erika Pillsbury said.

Before she was killed, Vega was last seen in the parking deck of The Aubrey apartments near Washington Street and Parkside Drive where she lived. She was leaving to spend time with friends at a Dave & Buster's in the Valley.

Silent Witness is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information "that may lead to detectives' ability to understand, arrest or convict anybody who may be responsible for this brutal attack," according to Sgt. Brian Bower, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department and the county coordinator for Silent Witness.

The family also is trying to raise $10,000 to help crack the case, according to their Go Fund Me campaign. Some $1,385 has been raised as of Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the homicide, said Wednesday that the agency had no updates about the case.
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