Reward increased in search for missing person

The tattered remnants of a missing persons flyer for Ramiro “Kimberly” Avila remains taped to the side of a building Tuesday along Elizabeth Street. Avila's family has been searching for answers in their disappearance since 2017 and hopes the new reward of $10,000 might yield new information. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The family of Ramiro “Kimberly” Avila is hoping that an increase in the reward seeking information on Avila will encourage anyone who knows what happened to him will come forward.

The reward is now at $10,000, with $5,000 coming from the Brownsville Police Department and its Crime Stoppers program and $5,000 from the Valley Aids Council.

Avila, a transgender woman, disappeared from the downtown area around 2:30 a.m. on May, 13, 2017. Avila’s family and police have been searching for Avila since the disappearance but have been unable to locate him.

Brownsville police continue to investigate Avila’s case as a missing persons case until something develops that determines otherwise.

Police Commander Gerard C. Serrata said the department has interviewed numerous people and “it continues to be an open and active investigation on our part.”

“We have interviewed lots of different people in hopes of shedding some light on what exactly happened and the whereabouts of Mr. Avila,” Serrata said. “All of our resources are invested in this.”

Ivone Rodarte, Avila’s sister, said the family is optimistic that someone will now come forward since the reward has increased.

“Maybe someone will call in and give some information that is going to be a benefit to the detective and to see if they can get any type of information that can help us get the answers that we need,” Rodarte said.

The family had been playing a game of Loteria the night the Avila went missing. Rodarte dropped Avila off in the downtown area and Avila has not been heard from since.

The family and volunteers had placed flyers with Avila’s pictures around the downtown area. Though many have been torn down some that are tattered still remain. The family is considering putting up new flyers that will include the reward amount, Rodarte said.

Although May will make three years since Avila’s disappearance, it hasn’t gotten any easier for the family. In fact, it’s getting harder for them, Rodarte said.

There are many “what if” scenarios that play through their minds wondering if they had done something different that Avila would still be around.

“A lot of people say that time heals, well that’s not right. It is completely the opposite. As time passes by, we just had New Year’s and Christmas, and believe me it gets harder and harder every day,”Rodarte said.

“Instead of getting easier it just gets worse. Time passes by and we still don’t know anything. We don’t know if he’s alive, if he’s not alive, if he got hurt, we don’t know if he’s here. It’s very devastating. … I’m always thinking what if I would have gone back and convinced him, maybe he would be here,” Rodarte said.

Some have questioned whether authorities would have searched harder for Avila had he been younger or an average female instead of a transgender woman.

“The city would have been in outrage, the mayor would have gotten involved. … The funds would have been like $25,000 within a day or two, but the fact that it has taken our community that long to raise this much money in so many ways makes it a cold case and we are upset that that hasn’t happened,” said Oscar Lopez, a community advocate.

Lopez said he hopes Mayor Trey Mendez will get involved and help with the case.

Avila’s family maintains they will not give up and will continue to fight to find out what happened to Avila and get the answers they deserve.

“Whoever is out there let them know that we are not going to give up and if they hurt Kimberly, and if that is the case, we are going to fight to the end. We are going to fight to get justice” for Kimberly, Rodarte said.

Police urge anyone with information on Avila’s whereabouts to contact Brownsville Crime Stoppers at (956) 546-8477.