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Few clues in Wichita cold case

Emanuel Vargas-Avila’s killer(s) remains uncaught
Updated: Sep. 7, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A homicide case from summer of 2020...as cold as any unsolved case we’ve covered. In a continuing partnership with Wichita police, Factfinder 12 investigator looks at the murder of Emmanuel Vargas-Avila in hopes the few details police have may be all you need to help solve the case.

It’s strange to talk about anything cold taking place at the height of summer. It’s particularly strange to talk about a cold case just over a year since the crime was committed.

But that’s what this is. A cold case. A murder of a man police say had no enemies and had done nothing they can find that would prompt anyone to murder him in such a cold and violent way.

Emmanuel Vargas-Avila. 42 years old, no home. He lived on the streets. Police say he was a sort of fixture around the south Wichita neighborhood where he was killed. He had few family members we could interview for this story. No friends we could find. The only picture of him available was his ID photo. Wichita homicide detective Ken Davis walks through what investigators know about the crime that took place on June 28, 2020.

“A citizen that was walking through the park discovered a deceased male on a picnic bench,” Detective Davis explained. “He had suffered numerous gunshot wounds to the torso was pronounced deceased right here at the scene.”

The discovery happened at Planeview Park on the southeast edge of the city. Vargas-Avila was living at a makeshift campsite in the park, across a drainage ditch just a few dozen yards from where he was killed. Killed, detectives say, with no warning.

“There were some sodas and some drinks out as if he was just out here enjoying the evening,” Davis said. “The position that he was found in caused us to believe that he did not see what was happening or that there was no confrontation.”

While police say Emmanuel may not have seen what happened, a security camera in the neighborhood did see what happened immediately after. In the video provided to Factfinder 12, three people can be seen running from the park where Emmanuel was killed. Unfortunately, the video is grainy. The people captured on it may be suspects, even witnesses. Regardless, detectives want to speak to anyone who may have seen them that night.

“Anybody who was in the area that maybe saw strange vehicles, saw strange people in the area that night. We would love to talk to them.”

“Until investigators have that conversation, the question of why anyone would kill Emmanuel cannot be answered. Living in a park, walking the streets day in and day out, detectives say he had no criminal record to speak of, nothing worth stealing and certainly nothing worth being killed for.

“Why he was killed, we don’t know. Don’t know if he had enemies or it was an initiation of some kind,” David said. “What stands out to me is, it was a very ruthless crime. This is a very vulnerable victim.”

Here’s what detectives say you need to know. June 28, 2020, just after 1 p-m in the morning at Planeview Park in southwest Wichita. Emmanuel Vargas-Avila was shot multiple times. Three people are seen on video just after, and an eyewitness says it shows at least one man and one woman. If you have any information, no matter how small, police want to hear from you.

Crime Stoppers is (316) 267-2111

WPD Investigations is (316) 268-4407.

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