Overview of Joaquin Esteves
Joaquin Esteves, a San Jose real estate agent and public figure, vanished without a trace in December 1988. Esteves said goodbye to his family in the morning and arrived safely at his office, where his wallet was found later in the day. However, he never returned home and was last seen driving away from his office. Esteves was known for his consistent daily schedule and was described as an extremely reliable person, making his disappearance all the more concerning for his loved ones.
Esteves was a well-known public figure who had programs on Portuguese-language radio and television, as well as owning several San Jose apartment buildings and working as a court interpreter. He was married with six children, and authorities suspected foul play immediately due to his regular habits and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.
Esteves's car, a mauve 1989 Buick Park Avenue, was also missing and was found being driven by Orlando Cruz Vasquez in January 1989. Vasquez was arrested and charged with auto theft, receiving stolen property, and parole violation, claiming that he had purchased the car from an unidentified person just days before. However, neighbors reported seeing Vasquez with the vehicle shortly after Esteves vanished, and scratch marks were found in the trunk of the car.
The sweater and wristwatch Esteves was wearing at the time of his disappearance were discovered in Vasquez's house, and Vasquez was also wearing Esteves's ring when he was arrested. Investigators found signs that someone had attempted to force open the trunk lock from the inside of Esteves's car.
After several months, Vasquez was charged with murdering Esteves, but authorities believe he may not have acted alone. One possible suspect hanged himself just as police were about to search his home. Vasquez's lawyers argued that Esteves had planned his disappearance and was still alive, but after two trials, Vasquez was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Esteves's body has never been found, and foul play is suspected in his case. His disappearance remains a mystery, leaving his family and loved ones without answers for over three decades.