‘I feel his spirit closer’: Dallas restaurant chain builds altar for Día de los Muertos in honor of murdered owner

El Ranchito and La Calle Doce restaurants have built altars in honor of Oscar Sanchez, who was kidnapped and murdered.

DALLAS – A popular Mexican restaurant honors its owner by building an altar in its four restaurants to celebrate Día de los Muertos.

The murder of Oscar Sanchez made headlines in 2005 when he was kidnapped, held for ransom and killed in Dallas.

But his family said that at this time of year when Latinos honor their deceased loved ones, they feel his presence closer to them.

As you walk into El Ranchito and La Calle Doce restaurants, you’ll see the smiling photo of Sanchez on the altars.

“We put in food that they loved,” Oscar’s mother Laura Sanchez said.

Building an altar is a custom for Día de los Muertos. It is a day when Latinos honor those who have passed away.

RELATED: What Is Día de los Muertos? List of events in North Texas

“We do this because we believe that during Día de los Muertos on November 2, the gates of Heaven are open and they come to visit us and spend time with us,” Laura said.

Laura said she finds peace in this tradition.

Her son was only 30 years old and running the family business when he was kidnapped from Oak Cliff while driving to work on January 18, 2005.

He was on the phone with Laura, checking on how she was that morning.

“He said, ‘Oh, someone hit me. Where? “In the back of my car,” Laura said.

Sanchez was on the corner of Winnetka and Canty, who was only a few blocks from his house when his car got hit.

“And I said, ‘But there’s no traffic there, how could somebody hit you there?’ The streets are empty and maybe a few seconds later he said, “Hi, Richie” and that’s the last thing I heard, “Laura said.

She said she then got into her car to find her son.

“Once the police arrived and saw my son’s car with the door open and the engine running, that’s where I arrived. And they said, let’s go to the police department, ”Laura recalls.

Right away, Laura started receiving ransom calls demanding money. The kidnappers called six times.

“They wanted a lot of money and they wanted it fast. They wanted three million dollars, ”Laura said.

Police arrested Edgar “Richie” Acevedo, a waiter at one of the family’s restaurants and his partner, former Dallas schoolteacher Jose Felix. The men shot Sanchez, then fled to Chicago where police found the vehicle they said had been used in the kidnapping.

Sanchez essentially identified his killer during that phone call with his mother.

“Oh, they recognized him from the start and weren’t going to let him go,” Laura said.

For years Laura has said that she struggles with the loss of her only son. But now she said she felt her spirit all around her.

“I feel very deep in my heart that he is there to protect us,” she said.

She placed her son’s favorite dish, ceviche tostadas and a margarita, on the altar. It makes her happy and she feels closer to him.

“He’s always close but during Día de los Muertos it’s very special,” said Laura.

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