November 6, 2023 | By: Cortnye Jackson

This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and the University of North Florida’s Applied Journalism class.

The first time Desiree Rodriguez heard her father’s voice was on a cassette tape, 18 years after he was murdered.

“My mom and I were going through some of her old things and my mom said that she thought my dad’s voice was on one of the tapes”. Desiree listened to the tapes by herself and was able to hear her mom, a friend of theirs and finally her dad’s voice. The quality of the tape wasn’t very good, but she stated, “hearing his voice made his life real.” She stated, “You see pictures, but you can never imagine what his voice actually sounded like.”

Desiree always wondered if she sounded like him, “That tape put a voice to someone I wanted to know my whole life.”

She was only three years old when she lost her father to gun violence. No suspects have been identified.

Police responded to a shots-fired call on February 5, 2001. When they arrived, they found Benito Rodriguez, 20, lying in the street with multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body. After being treated at the scene, he was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, where he died.

After Benito Rodriguez died in 2001, Desiree spent most of her life not understanding why she felt no connection with her father, and why she felt the need to research his death. She knew where he was buried, but that didn’t mean much to a child who had never met him.

Throughout the years Desiree and her mother, would go take flowers and decorate her father’s grave site for Holidays. When she got older and more independent, she started going by herself to think about everything and try to make a connection with her dad.

“Although I had seen pictures of him and knew his name, I had no memory of him,” she said. As she got older, she learned more details about that tragic day, and still feels the pain of losing a loved one.

Born in Arizona, Benito became a father at the age of 16. As a young man, all he knew how to do was provide for his family.

After her father’s death, for many years, Rodriguez dealt with her family being divided. Desiree spends time with her father’s family, but they haven’t provided her with any information that she hadn’t already known about her father.

“I want to know everything because I don’t have anything, how am I supposed to advocate for him when I don’t know him? “I don’t even know a lot about him, like basic things you should know about your parent”.

It was only last year that Rodriguez gave much thought to the loss of her father. She went online to research how to obtain a police report and death certificate. “I just want to know the truth,” she said. Desiree is working to add her father’s Unsolved Case to a Silent Witness website to ensure that the public knows and is made aware that her father’s case is still Unsolved.

“Ever since I received the death certificate and police report, it seems so real,” she said. “While growing up I would sometimes cry, but I did not know why I was crying. Today I realize that I do not cry because I am sad or because I miss him, but because of the unknown.”

Desiree has come to realize the severity of the case and that her father’s whole life has turned into a Cold Case. “I deserve answers because I didn’t get to spend time with him or get to have him in my life.”

If you have any information on the murder of Benito Rodriguez, please call the Avondale Police Department tip line at 623-333-7003. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a reward you can call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

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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.

Newspaper Clippings


Newspaper Clipping Provided by Family

Photo Album


Image provided by the family of Benito Rodriguez