Family holds vigil on 20th anniversary of teen’s murder; suspect still at large

SALT LAKE CITY — The family of Trisha Beristain, who was shot down in cold blood and later found by hunters in Big Cottonwood Canyon 20 years ago, held a vigil and hoped that after all these years, justice will someday be served.

Trish was allegedly murdered by a man named Jesse Vega when she was 19-years-old, but police have been unable to locate him.

Police say Vega was seeing Beristain at the time of her murder but had become jealous over her friendship with another male. They say he drove her up the canyon and shot her to death in a fit of rage.

Investigators working the case said they had recovered enough evidence to charge Vega with murder, but he fled Utah before they could arrest him. He was even profiled on the tv show “America’s Most Wanted,” but he still hasn’t been located.

Laura Torres, Trisha’s sister, who was 16 when the murder occurred, expressed her grief two decades following the homicide.

“She was my best friend,” Torres said. “Whenever I needed anything I could call her and now I can’t because somebody decided to take her away from me.”

Fred Beristain, Trisha’s father, said he promised when his daughter passed that they would hold a vigil every year to honor her memory, and would continue to do so until Vega was caught.

“20 years, and he’s still running around free,” Fred Beristain said. “It’s like having your heart ripped out. It’s a loss of life, 20 years we could have had with her.”

Investigators stated three years ago that even though significant time has passed, Vega could still be located.

“At some point, he may have let his guard down, he may have said something to somebody, maybe somebody out there now has information that we didn’t have before, and he’s not as tight-lipped about it,” said Lt. Lex Bell of the Unified Police Department, on the 17th anniversary of Trish’s death. “Maybe he feels like he got away with it, so time can help us in that regard.”

Police are still checking out any tips and leads that come in on this case. Anyone with information on Jesse Vega can call 801-743-7000.

“We never forget her. We just want justice for her, [to] get this guy off the street so he doesn’t hurt anyone else,” Torres said.