Murdered detention officer laid to rest; search for killer continues

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Tess Rafols

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:15 AM

PHOENIX – Even as investigators continue to search for his killer, Maricopa County Detention Officer Jorge Vargas was laid to rest Friday.

His funeral service was held at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. Because it hasn’t been determined if this was a line-of-duty death, Vargas’ funeral was a private affair rather than an official law-enforcement service. Despite that, there was a significant law-enforcement presence as officers and deputies paid their last respects. In addition, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was expected to attend.

Vargas, 27, was shot to death in the driveway of his home near 91st Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road early last Thursday morning. He was working on his truck at the time, getting ready to go to work.

Even now, more than a week later, investigators still do not know if this was a random incident or if Vargas was targeted for some reason, perhaps something connected to his job.

"At this point, we do not know the motive," Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said only hours after Vargas was murdered, making it clear that the investigation was just beginning. "There are no indications at this point that it is related to [the victim's job]. I want to stress that. We don't know the motive here."

The day after the shooting, police released a sketch of the suspect. That sketch is based on information provided by a witness.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, 18 to 25 years old, 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, 155 to 160 pounds with a "buzz" haircut.

Earlier this week Silent Witness posted billboards featuring a sketch of the suspect throughout the Valley. The boards are designed to put the suspect’s image out there for everyone to see. The hope is that somebody has information that can help police catch the killer.

“Billboards are 24/7, so we really hope somebody will see one of these billboards,” Silent Witness coordinator Darren Burch said Wednesday, when the boards went u.. “It will resonate, connect with them, and they will call and hopefully get a murderer off our streets.”

Vargas, who had been with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for eight years, leaves behind a wife and a little boy.

A fundraiser will be held this weekend for Vargas’ family. A car wash will take place Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Jimbo’s Restaurant near 51st Avenue and Cactus Road in Glendale.

In addition, those wishing to make a donation to help the Vargas family may do so at any Wells Fargo location. The account number is 8373157778.

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