A Mother’s Day tragedy: The murder of 6-year-old Saryah Perez

Texas Crime Stories dives into the Mother’s Day murder of Saryah Perez at a car club meetup in San Antonio

Two years ago, a senseless shooting shocked San Antonio as a six-year-old died in her mother’s arms on what should have been a joyous day.

“She took her last breath in my arms,” said Kassandra Mendoza.

“It’s a random act by a reckless, heartless individual who could not have cared less where those bullets wound up,” said Chief William McManus.

Three years later, the community was shocked again after the suspect in Saryah Perez’s death was given a 25-year plea deal.

May 9, 2021

Mother’s Day is meant for celebration, but for Kassandra Mendoza, Mother’s Day 2021 was anything but joyful.

It was a family tradition for Mendoza and Julio Garcia to take their kids to car club gatherings.

Kassandra’s daughter, 6-year-old Saryah, loved car shows with her family.

“She would tell her dad, ‘Look at the wheels, dad! They’re big! Look at all of the lights,” Mendoza said. “She begged her dad to take her. That is what we did. She was there having fun enjoying herself.”

They arrived at the gathering on Commerce and 24th streets on the West Side and the kids had fun looking at the cars.

As the family was about to leave, an altercation broke out.

“Before I knew it, I was looking on the left-hand side and people were banging on the door saying I hit the truck. They opened my door, and someone hit me in the nose. I was bleeding,” Garcia said.

Cell phone video showed several people surrounding their vehicle.

In a second video, you can hear gunshots as the family’s car drives off.

The shots are coming from an individual on the left-hand side of the screen.

“Then I heard Kassandra say something hit her,” Garcia said.

As the family stopped at a nearby gas station, they realized Mendoza had been grazed in the back by a bullet and as they checked the kids, they noticed Saryah was bleeding.

“She had Sayrah in her hands crying and I see so much blood I thought she was hit in the neck,” Garcia said.

The child was hit in the upper torso and would later die from her wounds.

The family was devastated and the police immediately began their investigation and searched for the suspect.

Suspect identified

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus had officers work around the clock until that person was in handcuffs.

With eyewitness accounts and evidence from the scene, it didn’t take long for police to find the suspect.

The next day he was in custody.

″The suspect in this case is Andrew Rae Elizondo, he is 23 years old,” McManus said.

McManus explained that Elizondo was acquainted with Mendoza, but that this was not a domestic violence situation.

″At about 2:30 he was arrested and charged with capital murder,” McManus said. “I don’t have words that describe the atrocity that was committed by Mr. Elizondo. It’s a random act by a reckless, heartless, individual, who not have cared less where those bullets wound up.”

While Elizondo was now behind bars, Saryah’s family was dealing with her tragic loss.

“I will never forgive Andrew, never,” Mendoza said.

Court headache

When Elizondo was initially arrested, he was facing a capital murder charge but that was later downgraded to murder after the indictment.

Saryah’s family attended countless court hearings over three years.

In August 2023, Elizondo accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The child’s family had a chance to confront Elizondo while in court.

“I forgive you for what you did to me. I forgive you for ripping my child away, but I hope you suffer the next 25 years,” Mendoza said.

Saryah’s legacy

Cynthia Alvarez, Saryah’s grandmother, created a nonprofit to honor her granddaughter; it’s called Saryah Lee’Anna’s Blessings.

They strive to give back to the community through backpack giveaways, Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas presents.

Following the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Alvarez said they offered support to the families who lost their children.

In May 2022, Alvarez said now is the time to be sad and angry and demand change to prevent more school shootings.

“We need to come together. We need to take a stand, and we need to tell them to put those guns down. They need to be put down because now it’s small children that are losing their lives for no reason at all, and it needs to stop,” Alvarez said.

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About the Authors

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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