Barrera Death a Great Loss

A New Year's Eve murder stuns friends of Esme Barrera

Esme Barrera
Esme Barrera
Courtesy of Danielle Ross

The Austin Police Department on Monday released the sketch of a man wanted for questioning in connection with an attack on a woman early on Jan. 1 – an attack that may be related to the murder of Esmeralda Barrera, who was found dead in her home just before 3am.

Barrera, known affectionately as Esme, was 29. She worked at Casis Elemen­tary with kids with special needs and was a mentor at Girls Rock Camp, a dedicated fan of the Alternat­ive Softball League, and an avid music lover. Friends of Barrera's – including a number of Chronicle employees – all said that the petite young woman was vibrant and enthusiastic and lived life to the fullest. "She was the most positive, loving person," said Chronicle Sports Editor Mark Fagan, who met Barrera two years ago when the pair were both working at Waterloo Records; they were fast friends. "Like most everyone else who crossed paths with her, our lives immediately became intertwined," he wrote in an email. "It would be rare for six hours to go by without receiving a text from her. I don't love Esme as a friend, I just flat-out love Esme. Which is the way everyone feels, even if they only met her once."

APD sketch of suspect
APD sketch of suspect

Barrera was at the 29th Street Ball­room for a New Year's Eve show and left after the festivities wound down, heading home on foot to her rented cottage in the 3100 block of King Street, about five blocks away. At 2:46am, police received a 911 call reporting that Barrera had been attacked. She died in her home.

Police have not said how Barrera was killed, have not released any additional details about the crime, and do not have a suspect in custody, but they are searching for a man who was described by another woman as a 30- to 40-year-old black male. The woman who gave the description told police she was attacked just outside Barrera's home a mere half-hour before Barrera was killed. The two struggled, and the man fled after the woman cried out for help.

Moreover, another woman reported to APD that she, too, was attacked just before 6am inside her home in the 300 block of East 31st Street, roughly six blocks east of Barrera's home. According to APD, the man injured the woman and then fled the home.

Whether the three incidents are connected is at present unclear, police say. Investigators are asking anyone who might recognize the man in the sketch, as well as anyone who may have seen Barrera on New Year's Eve or early on Jan. 1, to contact the homicide tip line at 477-3588.

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