Seventeen months from now, Clovis High School will hold commencement services for its 2013 graduates. Some of Carlos Perez' classmates from Cameo Elementary will be graduating.
Whatever Perez' classmates do and wherever they go, Carlos Perez remains a fifth-grader in Clovis. That's because on Sept. 15, 2005, one day shy of his 11th birthday, the Cameo Elementary student died at a Lubbock hospital after he was struck in the head by a bullet fired through his bedroom window.
Noe Torres, who authorities believe was involved in the shooting, was arrested last week in Mexico after more than six years of eluding law enforcement.
The news was announced Tuesday morning, along with a press conference in Santa Fe with Gov. Susana Martinez.
Torres for years evaded law enforcement, often contacting the media, the "America's Most Wanted" television program and local law enforcement officials. Patricia Perez, Carlos' older sister, said news of each communication left her family with an anger that last week's arrest has helped stem.
"It was good to at last know," she said, "that we're finally going to have some justice."
Edward Salas, convicted in the shooting, remains at large following his Aug. 28, 2008, escape from the Curry County Adult Detention Center.
Carlos' older brother Ruben was the intended target. Authorities said the shooting was retaliation for a dispute between Ruben Perez and Orlando Salas, Edward's younger brother. Patricia Perez said she did not know the source of the dispute.
The 10-year-old Carlos was known as "Carlitos" to family and friends, played football nearly every recess period, loved the Oakland Raiders and family cookouts, and always seemed to have a smile on his face.
"He had a very sweet nature," former Cameo Principal Carrie Nigreville said. "He was friends with probably every kid in his class."
Former CMS Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm, now in Albuquerque, said she has an "overwhelming memory" of how the school community rallied around the Perez family.
"I think Cameo really went above and beyond to not only try to offer whatever solace they could to the family, but also to take care of the other children in the school," she said.
Nigreville, now coordinator for CMS' Instructional Resource Center/Education Plans for Student Success, said the school had a dedication service and a tree was planted in Carlos' honor, and staff members visited, took food, attended funeral services and helped the family move from their apartment complex on 15th Street — gestures she said were simply "the things that people do to help."
Also, about three dozen students from Cameo and other schools took part in a car wash that raised $1,017 to help pay funeral expenses and defray moving costs.