“Amberly Mendoza was a 10-year-old girl living with her family in Yuma, Arizona in 1996. She was a fourth-grade student studying at Valley Horizon Elementary School and was described as a shy girl who loved drawing, eating pizza, and rollerblading. Her mother stated that she was the kind of child who would always make time for others, and she had quite a passion for shoes. Amberly used to beg her mother to allow her to wear her mother’s high heels to the park to play, but her mother would gently laugh and remind her how that would be unsafe before they would settle for sneakers.
Her family stated that Amberly would try her hardest at whatever task was put in front of her. She had made a deal with her mother that if she had completed reading ten books, her mother would allow her to watch the movie Pocohantas. While Amberly didn’t make it quite to ten books, she did put the effort in, and her mother allowed her to watch the Disney film. Amberly would watch this movie on March 8, 1996, the last night that she would be alive.
On March 8, 1996, Amberly’s family was hosting a barbecue for friends and family at their Yuma home located at 1740 W. 24th Lane. Amberly spent the evening playing with the other children, socializing with family, and watching the movie she had so anticipated to see. Around 11:30 pm, Amberly was worn out and had begun to feel sleepy. She said goodnight to everyone in her home and retired to her bedroom where she would play with her Barbies for a while, before finally getting into bed and falling asleep.
Amberly had left her bedroom window slightly open that night, to allow fresh air in. This window was often left open by Amberly and her sisters, with their mother claiming that girls frequently climbed in and out of the window, as well as their friends but it was meant to stay locked. The window to Amberly’s bedroom was located at the front of the family’s home, facing the street. Normally, Amberly would share this bedroom with her sisters, but on the evening of the barbecue, the other girls had been spending the night at their grandmother’s home.
On the morning of March 9th, Amberly’s mother made a late breakfast for the family and friends who stayed the night from the barbecue the prior evening. Around 11:00 am, she went to fetch Amberly to join the family for breakfast, and called for her daughter throughout the home. When she didn’t get a response, Amberly’s mother assumed her daughter was out front rollerblading, as she loved to do. She went outside to tell Amberly it was time to eat, fully expecting to see the young girl laughing and having fun on her rollerblades. But, Amberly wasn’t out front, either. Panicked, she ran back into the home to check Amberly’s room, where she found her daughter lying dead in her bed.
An autopsy would conclude that Amberly had been assaulted and murdered between the hours of 11:30 pm on March 8th to 10:45 am on March 9th, an almost 12-hour gap. Amberly’s cause of death was asphyxiation. She had been suffocated with her own pillow. An investigation of the scene showed there were no signs of forced entry into the home, and surmised the killer must have come through the open bedroom window. The killer did leave behind his DNA, police swabbed Amberly’s body and collected a sample. The DNA proved the killer was not a family member, and the family was cleared.
In a 2016 news interview, Amberly’s sister Jordan would explain that there was some unusual activity happening around the home in the weeks leading up to the murder. One evening shortly before Amberly’s death, Amberly woke Jordan up to say that there was a man outside their window. Jordan assumed that Amberly was just hearing some kind of noise outside, perhaps a coyote that was exploring the neighborhood. But Amberly would say no, that she had actually seen someone. Jordan stated that she ran to the window where she saw two men standing on the other side, speaking to one another.
One was saying, ‘Come on, dude, we got to get out of here. Dude, hurry up.’
The other man replied, ‘You just need to calm down dude, calm down… and walk slow.'”