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Des Moines Register Staff Writer
The phone call Wanda Payano of Los Angeles received a year ago will linger with her forever.
Her 22-year-old daughter, Celestina Payano, had been found Sept. 12, 2002, in a home on Des Moines’ north side along with Emanuel Burgs Jr. II, 21, of Des Moines, both bound and shot to death.
She waits to receive another call, this time from Des Moines police saying her daughter’s killer has been arrested.
“It seems like someone would have called me or something, but I haven’t heard anything – just promises,” said Wanda Payano, 53, in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “And it’s like, I have the feeling they haven’t even tried.”
Police said they have tried for the past year to solve the case, but they’ve exhausted all possible leads and conducted dozens of interviews. Two investigators are still assigned to the case.
“Right now, we’re at the point where we don’t know anymore,” said Sgt. Tony Steverson, police spokesman. “We get calls in and follow up with the calls and if it comes to a dead end, we’re back at stage one.”
Officers found Payano dead in the living room and Burgs dead in the basement when they arrived at the home at 1831 Mondamin Ave. about 10:30 p.m. Both victims died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
Police have never disclosed how many times Burgs and Payano were shot. Nor have they told what type of gun was used.
Court records show police confiscated several 9 mm shell casings and a pillow with three bullet holes from inside the home. Police also seized a .38-caliber handgun, a 9 mm handgun and several rounds of ammunition from the trunk of a car with California license plates that was in the back yard of the house.
Information surrounding the deaths sparked rumors and raised many questions, which police either can’t or won’t answer.
Sgt. Jack Beardsley, a homicide detective, said this week that investigators have an idea as to the motive. “I’m not going to come out and say what the motive is because it’s still under investigation,” he said.
Burgs’ mother, Faye Burgs, 48, said she’s not convinced police have done their best to find her son’s killer.
“He was my only son and that’s what bothers me. He was my only son and they’re not doing anything about it,” she said.
Burgs said police have never called to update her on the investigation.
Police officials maintain they have not shelved investigating the double homicide.
Beardsley said detectives have conducted between 50 and 75 interviews in three states in search of clues. He would not disclose the other two states where investigators have been. Police officials assigned six investigators initially and as leads diminished, two detectives remain on the case.
The double homicide’s more than 900-page case file, which contains 149 reports, is the biggest homicide file in the office, Beardsley said.
“We’re working as hard on this case as we would any other case,” Steverson said.
Earlier this year, Des Moines police worked with Waterloo police in looking for links between the Burgs and Payano double homicide and two other double homicides in Waterloo.
But again it led Des Moines police nowhere.
Since the shooting, police have pleaded for the public’s help in the case.
Investigators believe someone may have seen or heard something that could lead them to a break.
Beardsley said he doesn’t know why neighbors aren’t being more helpful.
A $1,000 Crime Stoppers reward has yet to yield any substantial leads. A $10,000 reward offered by Payano’s boyfriend, Ralph “Tony” Jordan, shortly after the shootings also was unproductive.
Neighbors who live on the street have kept silent about the shooting deaths, many saying they fear their names being associated with the killings.
A year after the slayings, neighbors in the 1800 block of Mondamin Avenue said they’re trying to move on.
“We’re still kind of looking for closure in the case, too,” said Steve Sharp, 52. “We’re surviving and trying to put things behind us. We’re watching our neighborhood a little bit more.”
William Quinn Jr., 37, and his fiancee, Charlotte Crawford, 36, moved back into the 1 1/2-story house at 1831 Mondamin Ave. in June. Quinn said he wasn’t living in the house owned by his father when the shooting took place. Court records show that Quinn’s father had rented the house to Jordan’s alleged estranged wife.
Standing in the driveway this week outside the house, Quinn talked for the first time to the Register about the killings.
“He was like my son,” Quinn said of Burgs. “That was my partner. I think about it every day. You can’t help but think about it.”
Quinn said he knew Jordan, Payano’s boyfriend, for about five years before the shootings. He said Jordan wanted to move to Des Moines to escape from fast-paced Los Angeles. He said Burgs, Payano and Jordan lived in the house off-and-on for a few months.
Beardsley said Jordan has been interviewed by investigators in recent months. He also said Jordan has served time in jail in California for unrelated crimes since the slayings.
Quinn, who was questioned by police the night of the killings, said he hopes police find out who killed Burgs and Payano. However, he said he’s not optimistic.
“There’s so many assumptions,” Quinn said. “There’s rumors that I’ve done it. There’s rumors Ralph Jordan did it. There’s rumors that his woman did it. There’s rumors my cousin done it. It’s just all a roller coaster – up and down.”
For Quinn, he said living in the house is a constant reminder of the slayings.
“I have family members who won’t come over here,” he said.
Back in California, Wanda Payano said she’s stopped calling police for information.
She said she’ll continue to pray that someday she’ll know who killed her daughter. Until then, she’ll continue to visit the cemetery once a week to place flowers on her daughter’s grave.
“I’ve done a lot of accepting,” she said. “I’ve accepted it.”
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Reporter Tara Deering can be reached at (515) 284-8503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2003 Des Moines Register, All Rights Reserved
Emanuel C. Burgs, Jr. II was born December 8, 1980, in Polk County, Iowa.
He is buried at the Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.
Celestina Gay Payano was born in the Dominican Republic and had lived in California before recently moving to Des Moines.
She was a student at the time of her death. She also was pregnant.
Services were held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Solomon Mortuary in Los Angeles, with burial there in L.A. at Inglewood Cemetery.
Survivors included her parents, Wanda and James Hose of Los Angeles; and two sisters, Christina Payano and Selna Payano, both of California.
Her companion, Ralph Jordan of Des Moines, also survives her.
Nichols and Sons Funeral Home handled local arrangements.
If you have any information on the double homicide of Emanuel Burgs and Celestina Payano, please contact the Des Moines Police Department Detective Bureau at 515-283-4864.