“I’m going to be honest; I don’t look at their pictures.”
This is the first time in months that Maria Trujillo is scrolling through pictures of her two sons. She says it’s been extremely painful to watch videos and hear their voices.
“Felipe was 28 and Hector was 30 years old. If I was to show you my photo album, you’ll always see them right next to each other.”
Maria lost two sons within four months of each other. In August 2021 Felipe Trujillo was sitting in his vehicle in Little Village when he was shot fatally. According to Maria he was waiting for his brother outside a store. Felipe died at the hospital.
Four months later, in December, the family received another devastating phone call. Their eldest son Hector Trujillo was killed less than a mile from where Felipe was shot.
“I’m devastated because Hector didn’t have an upbringing where I could say he was always out. Hector was always about working. He started working at a young age.”
Maria migrated to Chicago when she was 20 years old. Later she brought her sons Hector and Felipe from Mexico and settled in Pilsen. She says Hector was like a father figure to his siblings.
For the past nine months, this mother has been fighting to get answers. Both of her sons’ cases remain unsolved.
“It seems there’s enough evidence and we still haven’t got a response to what’s going? The detective who was in charge of my son Felipe’s case was reassigned to another case. I don’t understand why he was reassigned when he hasn’t resolved my son’s case. I don’t understand the system and sometimes I feel we don’t understand how the police department moves.”
Maria and others have formed a campaign, Mothers and Families for Justice. They’ve gone as far as rallying outside the FBI Headquarters hoping to get assistance with their cases.
“I feel like this system makes us murderers. They make us look like murderers because when we were with detectives, they right away started to talk about gangs.”
This year the Cook County Medical examiner confirmed 213 homicides and the vast majority of these cases go unsolved.
“It’s always been the same when it comes to violence, but what happens is that people stay quiet. Bullets don’t have names, I believe when people went out to kill back then, they had a bullet with a name. Now so many innocent people are dying.”
Regardless of the language barrier, Trujillo hasn’t stopped using her voice to support other families seeking any leads.
“People always tell me how strong I am, but I’m not strong. I’m in this fight because I want to feel. I want to know if I can still feel something. They say I’m surprised you haven’t gone crazy. But I always respond saying how [do] you know I haven’t?”
As summer approaches she worries about bullets taking over the streets, and the lives that may be claimed in neighborhoods like Little Village. She questions the police department’s struggle to solve crimes while crime continues to grow.
“This is the urn where I have Felipe. I can’t let him go yet, but I know that the day will come when I have to let him rest and I know here … he’s not resting … but I’m not ready yet.”
She is one of hundreds of mothers surviving the pain of gun violence that’s taking Black and brown lives. Many mothers like her are working through the pain to make sure they’re not forgotten.
“I’m going to keep fighting. As long as I can speak I will keep talking about them, and they will be here with me.”
A three-part series from WTTW News, Pain Into Purpose tells the stories of three grieving mothers whose children have been killed by gun violence and the ways in which they turned that pain into action. Their stories will air May 23 - 25 on “Chicago Tonight.”