June 8, 2020 | By Cassidy Klein
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Call it mother’s intuition.
In December 2015, Sarah Mendoza had a feeling that something was off. Robert Calderon, her son, was driving his mother to a local Christmas party.
“I kind of felt in my heart that there was something going on,” Sarah recalled. “I could almost feel that something was going to happen to him. Just by the conversation we had – just by his tone.”
Her intuition was right.
That night, there was a series of 911 calls regarding gunshots. A trail of blood led right to the body of Robert. He was lying on the grass strip separating the sidewalk and the roadway in a Pasadena, California, neighborhood.
Robert Calderon had been shot to death. He was just 27 years old.
Robert loved sports, all of them. Growing up on the west coast, it was odd for him to claim the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, and Boston Red Sox as his favorite teams. He didn’t want to be like all the other people around him, so he chose teams outside the Los Angeles area to root for. He knew everything about the teams and players and “knew all the stats,” his mother said.
Robert grew up in a religious household. He started attending a Catholic school in kindergarten and was even an altar boy for a few years. Robert “knew God and didn’t fear death,” his aunt, Raquel Delgado, said. “He knew he would be called home someday.”
With dreams of becoming an electrician, Robert enrolled at Pasadena City College. He didn’t get to see his hard work pay off. The college posthumously awarded the family his diploma on the day of his funeral.
On the night of December 18, 2015, Robert dropped his mother Sarah off at a Christmas party. He planned to pick her up at 10:35.
The drive would normally take just a few minutes, but it took 40 minutes that day thanks to traffic. Robert told his mother how thankful he was for her.
It was the longest ride, but Sarah said it was incredibly “engaging and heartfelt.”
After dropping his mother off, Robert made his way to a friend’s house to meet up with his girlfriend. The couple was planning to go to the theater to watch the latest Star Wars movie. As they walked to the car, two friends stopped them and recommended that they make a quick trip to the store.
Robert insisted that he go with his friends despite his girlfriend being skeptical.
That decision would ultimately cost Robert his life.
According to articles from the night of the incident, law enforcement discovered seven shell casings at the scene. Detectives aren’t sure if Robert was crossing the street or he was getting out of a car.
Other scenarios have been presented, but witnesses from the area have never come forward with information.
Pasadena investigators continue to encourage the community to step forward with any and all information that could help solve the case.
Friends and family gathered at the St. Andrews Church for Robert’s funeral. The funeral brought ”people of different cultures and races together,” according to Sarah. She estimated over 1,200 people attended the funeral to celebrate her son’s life.
Robert’s family continues to remain hopeful that someone will come forward with information to help convict the person who shot Robert and left him on the curb to die.
As of October 22, 2019, The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has reinstated a $20,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Robert’s murderer.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Robert Calderon, please call the Pasadena Police Department at (626) 744-4501. You may remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward by call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
Research and Impact
After a homicide turns cold, it’s often the family members that are left to shoulder much of the burden. Many times, the family must stay consistent when reaching out to the investigative agency to ensure their loved one’s case is not forgotten. It’s often on the family to engage with their local media to keep their loved one’s name, face, and story in the public eye.
At Project: Cold Case, we offer families many suggestions to best engage those around them. Often, consistency is key. Families need to understand that reaching out just once may not be enough. Always allow a reasonable timeframe to respond and be patient with the process, especially when attempting to engage with the law enforcement agency.
Many times, when a family reaches out to law enforcement, they are surprised to learn that the original detective working the case has been reassigned to a new department or even retired. With cold cases and genetic testing becoming more popular in everyday conversations, families may request new tests be done in their loved one’s case. It’s important to understand that this may not possible on some cases, depending on a few factors, including how the original detectives collected and stored evidence, how much evidence is available, and if it’s the correct evidence for specific testing.
Possibly the simplest aspect can be the most difficult. Many people believe that, in today’s technological world, every detail of every cold case is quickly accessible in a digital format. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. Depending on the size of the agency, funding, and ability to digitally archive files, cases may still be in physical paper format locked away. This can cause delay in the initial review process and detectives need time to review the case and be well-informed on the details before speaking to specifics.
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If you have a loved one that is the victim of an unsolved homicide, please submit their case here for consideration in a future Cold Case Spotlight post.