A mentally disabled Modesto man stabbed Saturday night while apparently walking home after an outing at Vintage Faire Mall has died and his family and police are searching for answers.
"He didn't hurt anyone," said sister Michelle Casares. "He never did anything to anyone. He was always nice and friendly."
Casares and her three sisters and their mother gathered Sunday afternoon at the Modesto Police Department to enlist the public's help in finding the person or people who fatally stabbed 37-year-old Ernie Hernandez Jr.
Hernandez was the oldest of five children and the only son of Patterson residents Elvira and Guadalupe Hernandez.
Family members sobbed as they talked about a kind-hearted man and loving son and brother. Police said Hernandez was a solid citizen.
"We have no information on him because there is no criminal history, no police contacts, no 911 calls," Detective Terry Seese said, "which in my line of work that seems like someone is a good person."
Modesto police continue looking for those responsible for the slaying and ask anyone with information to come forward about a crime committed during daylight in a high traffic area.
"We are hoping the public can help us out on this," said Sgt. Rick Armendariz, a department spokesman. "We hope this is still fresh in people's minds and that someone recognized seeing him at the mall or walking that neighborhood. Any information would be beneficial, even if they think it's nothing."
Armendariz said Hernandez was wearing a black-and-white striped polo shirt Saturday.
Hernandez was stabbed behind the Babies R Us on Sisk Road. He then fled to the Humphreys College parking lot, about 100 yards away. Two passing motorists spotted his body in the parking lot about 7:23 p.m. and called authorities, Armendariz said.
Hernandez was taken to Doctors Medical Center on Saturday night and later pronounced dead.
He had been living in a Modesto group home and working the same job for about eight years. Family members said the Howard Training Center, which helps the developmentally disabled, had placed him in a job cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash and debris with the California Department of Transportation.
The group home is near where Hernandez was stabbed. Police said his Saturday routine was to walk to the mall, pass time with friends and then walk home.
Seese said Hernandez signed out of the group home Saturday indicating he was going to the mall. Seese said police suspect that Hernandez was on his way home when he was attacked.
Police declined to release the address of the group home to safeguard residents' and staff members' safety.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin contributed to this report. Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2316.
Police ask anyone with information about this stabbing to call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.stancrimetips.org, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward.