Around 11:00 a.m. on January 24, 1987, nine-year-old Eric Coy left his home on Warren Street in Martinez, California to visit his aunt and cousin (some reports say a friend) who lived about a mile away. Eric took a shortcut through Martinez Junior High School towards Alhambra Creek. The route was considered safe and known to every kid in town.
At 11:15 a.m., a group of kids discovered Eric’s body and his bicycle in bushes at the west end of Martinez Junior High School behind the baseball diamond and near a footbridge at Alhambra Creek.
Eric Coy was stabbed multiple times along his upper torso and once in the neck with a sharp object or a knife six to seven inches long. The murder weapon was never found.
A few days after the murder, police released a composite sketch of a possible suspect in the case. Witnesses saw the man around 9:00 a.m. on the day of the murder. They described him as a light-skinned Latin or Italian male, 18 – 21 years old, 5’8″ tall, 165 pounds with black combed medium-length hair. He bore a few acne scars or pockmarks on his face. The man wore a Levi jacket, Levi faded pants, and light-colored tennis shoes and carried a short collapsible-type umbrella.
Witnesses also saw a red Datsun or Toyota pickup truck in the area around that time.
Police learned that on January 23, 1987, the night before Eric was killed, his family and a neighbor, Benjamin Gomez were involved in an heated argument and threats were made. However, police were not able to prove Gomez was involved in Eric’s murder. He did not resemble the man in the sketch although police did acknowledge the man could have been a friend of Gomez’s. Eric’s parents thought they had seen the man before.
Around the time of Eric’s murder, Luke Collura, Jr., 16, was arrested for robbing a couple in their Atherton, California home. A sketch (above, left) of the suspect was released prior to his arrest and bore similarities to the suspect in Eric’s case. Martinez police interviewed him in Eric’s case, but it led nowhere.
In March 1987, six-year-old Jeremy Stoner was murdered in nearby Vallejo, California. Police arrested and charged 26-year-old Shawn Melton with murder. However, two trials resulted in hung juries. Investigators in Eric’s case wanted to interview Melton but it is unclear if they ever did.
It is possible the killer was a transient as many transients were in the area at the time.
The police department received more than 200 tips to their hotline. No arrest was ever made.
In 2016, Detective Dave Mathers of the Martinez Police Department said he thought biological evidence on file was worth taking another look at due to advances in forensic technology.
Eric Coy was a third grader at Las Juntas Elementary School and frequently rode his bike and played in the area near where his body was found, according to a 1987 Los Angeles Times article.
Anyone with information about this case may call Detective Dave Mathers of the Martinez Police Department at (925) 372-3450 or email him at email@example.com. Anonymous tips may be called in at (925) 372-3457.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
The killer was lying in wait near a school where kids played at on weekends. If the guy in the sketch is the killer, he arrived near the crime scene two hours before Eric came through. Eric was killed within 15 minutes after he left his home, which means once the killer saw him, he killed him. Police have said this was an unprovoked attack. I wonder if the killer had no particular kid in mind – attacking the first one he saw – or if Eric was in fact the intended target. It sounds like this was a random killing but why? Why kill a kid?
The neighbor theory is possible. I don’t know if a dispute would lead to the killing of a kid, though. That seems extreme to me but you never know. There are all kinds of crazies in this world. Have you ever watched Fear Thy Neighbor on Investigation Discovery? 😉 It’s crazy what some neighbors will resort to after a dispute with a fellow neighbor. I guess it’s possible Gomez could have hired someone to do it.
How did the killer get Eric off his bike? Did he know Eric and stopped him to “chat”? Did he knock Eric off it as he rode by him? How old were the group of kids who found Eric? Did police interview them? What about Eric’s home life?
An old newspaper article dated January 26, 1987, said there were two fatal stabbings in Martinez on January 24, 1987 – Eric Coy and a 24-year-old male. This was unusual for the city of Martinez at the time. In 1986, there was only 1 murder. The 24-year-old was stabbed around 3:30 p.m. outside his home which was less than 2 miles from where Eric was found. At the time, police believed the man knew his killer. I couldn’t find any more info on the 2nd stabbing.
I looked on Facebook to see if Eric’s parents or other family members created a page for Eric but found nothing. A little strange considering this case is unsolved.
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this case. Thoughts?