April 18, 2022 | By Mariana Mejia
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Patrick Elliot Manuel loved spending time with his mother Grace and helping her raise the cattle at the family ranch.
“He would round up the cattle for me,” Grace said. “He would do this for me so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it.”
Life as they knew it suddenly came to an end in 2005 when the Manuel family was told by police that their son had been killed.
His body was found at his Tucson, Arizona, apartment. His murder has never been solved.
Patrick grew up on the Tohono O’odham Nation Native American Reservation in Arizona, where the Manuel family had lived for over five generations. It was there that Patrick fell in love with rodeos.
“I would take him to enter in the amateur bull riding rodeos,” Grace recalled. “He really loved the sport and sometimes would win prizes.”
Tragedy struck the Manuel family when Patrick’s older brother, Ronald, died in a hiking accident.
Patrick, who was eleven at the time, and Ronald were exploring the mountains around the reservation as they usually did. Only this time, Ronald slipped and lost his footing near the entrance of a case. He fell, hit his head on the rock floor, and died instantly.
Patrick carried the weight of his brother’s death with him, often worrying that he was responsible. Patrick told his mother that he was at fault because he had pointed up in the sky for his brother to see what he just spotted – a cloud that looked like Jesus.
That was the moment when Ronald slipped and fell to his death.
The Manuel family tried to best assist Patrick to navigate his grief. They set him up with a psychologist, but after the first meeting, Patrick thanked the doctor and stated that he preferred to talk to his mother instead.
“I explained that I didn’t have the degree to help him, that the psychologist knows what she was doing,” Grace recalled.
Patrick dismissed his mother’s advice. He knew that she would have to be his counselor.
Making friends at school was difficult for Patrick without his older brother by his side. His mother encouraged him to go to a new school so that he could connect to his culture.
Struggling to meet new friends, Patrick fell into the wrong crowd.
“[One friend] wasn’t a good influence on my son, but his friendship made Patrick’s life easier,” Grace said. “He became more social and got onto the football team in the tenth grade.”
Caught in a drug deal at age 17, Patrick was arrested. He would serve three years behind bars.
Grace regretted placing Patrick in the school where he had met these friends, stating she would have put him in any other school if she knew what they were capable of.
“He would’ve had better influences and chances,” Grace stated.
After prison, Patrick got a small apartment, began working as a maintenance worker, started taking a college writing course, and started preparing himself to start college.
“He had only two weeks till he was fully done with his probation,” Grace said. “He was so excited to start fresh and sign up for two more classes that he asked me if he could use my card to buy a new pair of shoes so that he could look sharp on his first day.”
The body of Patrick Manuel was found on May 26, 2005, in Tucson, Arizona, at Mission Heights Apartments. He had been shot by an unknown assailant through the front door.
A friend of Patrick’s found him lying near the door, called 911, then left the scene. He later returned for questioning.
Patrick alerted his probation officer after he began to feel in danger, fearing those from his past would begin to target him.
After the murder, the whole family missed Patrick. His younger sisters had a hard time believing they lost another sibling. His grandmother’s heart was so broken that she did not want to live anymore. Grace said she had lost her son and best friend all in one day.
“He was my son, my best friend, my baby. When I saw him lying in that white coffin, all so innocent, I cried, ‘I don’t want him to go,’” said Grace.
A week after Patrick’s death, his probation officer called and asked Grace, “I heard that Patrick was shot, what hospital is he in?” Grace told him he was dead.
“I think he felt bad because he didn’t do anything to help him,” said Grace. “I was so mad.”
Patrick Manuel never had a girlfriend, was never married, never had children, and never got to experience life beyond 23 years old.
“Patrick was a big, giant, 6 foot 2 inches, and a kind loving teddy bear, ” said Grace. “The type of teddy bear you want to give a hug to and never let go.”
His sisters adored him. “Patrick always looked out for us. He was the big brother that we all looked up to,” said Kathleen Manuel. Her brother was her role model. He was very protective of them and wanted to see them succeed in life.
“One of the best vacations I could remember of when we took Patrick and the whole family to Disney World,” said Grace. “Patrick was having fun, but the entire time he was making sure the girls were safe and were having fun.”
They all remember him by talking about him and thinking about him. They also celebrate All Souls’ Day every November 2nd, when they make his favorite food, light candles, clean his grave, and set up flowers and a wreath.
If Grace could talk to her son one last time, she’d apologize.
“Sorry for not being the one to protect you when I said I would,” Grace would say.
“But thank you for being my best friend and my son.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Patrick Manuel, please contact the Tucson Police Department at (520) 791-4444.
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