‘We love him and we are waiting.’ Honduran woman searches for missing son in Ventura County
It has been more than a month since José Antonio “Toñito” Velásquez was last seen. Family and friends have mobilized in Ventura County to obtain information on his whereabouts, but so far to little avail.
“If anyone has seen him, let them know. I feel I can’t take it anymore,” said his mother, Rita Maldonado, who traveled from her home in Virginia at the beginning of August to join the search in California.
Velásquez, 35, a native of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, settled in 2016 in Simi Valley, where he worked as a plumber. In October 2021, he obtained his general contractor’s license, which opened up new job offers for him and allowed him to move into his own apartment in Camarillo at the end of July.
“Mommy, I’m happy with my job, I’m happy, I’m doing well. This has been my dream, I found it, ” Maldonado said her son told her when they spoke by phone around 1 p.m. on July 27, two days after he moved to Camarillo. “I’ve had a lot of work. At any time I can buy a flight to come see you.”
In a notice from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Velásquez is described as a 5-foot-9 Latino with brown eyes and black hair weighing 170 pounds. He was last seen near Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks on July 27.
“We have no new information,” said Natalie Hernandez, a sheriff’s spokesperson. “He is missing and we are still looking for him.”
According to Maldonado, because her son had been swamped with work, they spoke on the phone only twice a week.
But a friend in California and a cousin in Honduras communicated with “Toñito” more frequently. They realized that Velásquez wasn’t answering his cellphone and alerted his immediate family. On July 30, the family filed a notice with the authorities and began their search.
Through different sources, family members say they have been able to confirm that on the night of July 27, Velásquez met with some friends and drank a beer in a bar near Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks. Afterward, Velásquez and the others got in their vehicles and headed for his house.
On Aug. 1, authorities found Velásquez’s work vehicle, a white van, in the 1600 block of Rancho Conejo Boulevard, about four miles from Janss Marketplace.
“An attempted robbery can be ruled out, because his tools and the vehicle were there,” said Gloria Velásquez, an aunt of the missing man.
When her nephew arrived in California, Gloria Velásquez said, she initially was living close to him. He visited her twice a week; it took him five minutes by car.
“He likes to go to the gym, play soccer and hang out with his family. The little bit of time that he had free he was always sharing with the cousins,” said the aunt, who in October 2020 moved from Simi Valley to Long Beach, but said she still kept in touch with her nephew.
Velásquez left Honduras when he was 15, allowing him to benefit from the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Although he initially settled in Virginia, he later moved to Ventura County for a few months. He returned to Virginia before settling in Simi Valley.
“He had told me that he was going to save to buy his little house in Virginia, because here houses are very expensive,” Maldonado said.
Since his disappearance, friends and family have held at least three vigils. They have lit candles, said prayers and posted flyers in various neighborhoods.
“He is super affectionate, loving, he cares about me; he knows that I am suffering for him,” his mother said. “I ask that you help me find him, please. To the friends, if anyone knows something, communicate as soon as possible. We love him and we are waiting for him.”
Anyone with information can contact Det. Jeff Jacobs of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office at (805) 384-4729.
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