A few weeks ago I received an email from Christina Hughes Babb. She alerted me to the 2014 cold case of David Etienne Pimentel (November 5, 1991 – July 28, 2014) from Dallas, Texas.
The case was not very old but police did seem to be stuck.
She enclosed the link to a story about this case that she wrote for a small local magazine. I read it and agree with Christina. This is a heartbreaking case that could use a boost. While I searched online I found that David was born in Biel, Switzerland. I lived near Zug, 130 kilometers away.
We put our brains together and decided that Christina would tell my readers her back story. How did she hear about this case? What personal insights were not published in the magazine? This post is the result of our collaboration.
On July 28, 2014, David Pimentel was talking to his friend Charber de la Pax at a street corner near Charber’s home. It was around 930pm. A car drove by slowly. They didn’t react or look up. If they had, David might still be alive.
The car returned and two men got out. At least one of them was armed. They demanded their wallets and phones. David complied. Charber had no possessions to hand over. Then in a flash, all parties were running away from each other. Charber screamed for someone to call 911. Angered by Charber’s scream, one of the robbers fired. Charber was shot in his leg and David in his back and died.
More details about the case are of course in Christina’s magazine article.
Christina’s back story
Her story gained nationwide attention. Dallas placed extra detectives on the case. Zoe’s aunt set up a fundraising page that garnered tens of thousands of dollars for Zoe’s family. The day after police arrested Zoe’s suspected killer, I received an email from a reader wondering if I’d ever heard of David Pimentel.
David was about the same age as Zoe Hastings. His life also was cut short by a ruthless murderer, the tipster noted. Yet, aside from a small half column in the Dallas Morning News, David’s death went unnoticed.
My job demands that I stay abreast of local news, but I’d heard nothing about David. The source directed me to a 315-member Facebook group created in David’s memory where I learned that he’d attended the same schools as my son, just four grades ahead. During those years, he lived three streets over from me. That’s about two miles from where Zoe Hastings lived, but David died elsewhere—while he was visiting a friend in a low-rent, high crime area called Pleasant Grove. And a shooting in Pleasant Grove doesn’t typically make news. Thus, the investigation into David’s death progressed quietly and police faced no public pressure to bring the case to close. No fundraisers were launched, no monies contributed to his family.
When I received that email, it had been more than a year and a half since David’s death. I spoke with his mom and the lead detective to see if there was a viable story here (or would it just be a gratuitously sad piece taking up magazine space?).
David’s mother, Gail, agreed to talk but hesitated to invite me to her home. I later learned it was bursting at the seams with accumulated things, which made having visitors nearly impossible. She also was embarrassed about her appearance. She’d gained 50 pounds since David died, she said. After I promised no photos, she met me at a coffee shop. She warned she would be “very angry.”
And she was—she said no one gave a damn about her son. Because he was “in Pleasant Grove, they assumed he was a Mexican and on drugs” and therefore a nonessential human being. Gail was suffering. She called the hoarding tendencies at home her “pathos.” Eventually she let me in, and we chatted about her son under a cluster of hovering cement angels.
Her dachshund Reese snuggled up to her when she wept. She is convinced that David temporarily inhabited the dog’s body one of those first few nights after the murder.
Throughout the home are shrines to David — a symbolic rock formation on a mantle, a collection of heart-shaped figurines on a table, colorings by toddler David stacked aside his favorite childhood books. At the center of each is a photo — David and Gail, David and his Boy Scout Troop, David and Reese, little David mesmerized by a wind chime, David in the mountains. The most heartbreaking of the displays sits on Gail’s nightstand. It’s the urn carrying David’s ashes, flanked by his most-recent portrait.
David was of Brazilian descent, not Mexican, but there was truth to Gail’s denunciations. When I finally spoke with the detective — Tim Stewart who you might’ve seen on “First 48” — he indeed cast blame on David and his friend. As he spoke, I recognized something from other tragedy stories—the psychological phenomenon by which people convince themselves that victims bring calamity upon themselves.
No one thinks David deserved to be shot in the back for no discernible reason, but by standing on a sidewalk in a known danger zone, he broke unwritten rules of complete innocence.
David was a wonderful kid, an Eagle Scout and college student. He was just visiting his childhood friend. That day the boys worked out at the gym, played soccer, and did not use drugs — both parents are sure of that. If we ignore those things, however, we can more easily put David in the category of “other,” not us. It is not fair, and it is why I decided to write David’s story.
His case is still in Stewart’s hands and not officially “cold,” but it has hit a dead end, despite the fact that Stewart initially had a worthwhile lead. I have met cold case detectives and learned that the only cases that stay alive and maybe even get solved after long periods of time have one thing in common — people still care about them. I wrote this story so that people will continue to care about David and pressure the police to find his killer.
Christina Hughes Babb is the publisher at Advocate Media, whose content is published at advocatemag.com.
Practicing community journalism in Dallas for more than 10 years, she is most passionate about crime, city politics and the human interest stories that, without dedicated hyper local journalists, would not receive the attention they deserve.
If you have any information that can help the authorities with David’s case please call 214.373.TIPS or, call the Dallas Police Department Homicide Unit at 214.671.3661. Thank you for remembering David Etienne Pimentel with us.
I have permission from Christina to use her head shot. Danny Fulgencio is the photographer of all the black and white photography that accompanied the story in Advocate Magazines.
I thank all parties involved for all they do to help advance David’s case.