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One year after double homicide at Denver, victims' families disappointed with lack of answers

A year after double homicide at American Elm, families lack closure
A year after double homicide at American Elm, families lack closure 03:39

Wednesday marks a sad day in Denver: one year since the mysterious double murder of two workers at the American Elm Restaurant on West 38th Avenue.


The crime remains unsolved, with no apparent suspects.

"It's been a year and we have no news. No answers. We need to move on. We need to continue our life. So we want justice," said Miguel Lopez, son-in-law of victim Ignacio Gutierrez Gonzales.

The family came from New Jersey to attend a church service at a Colorado Catholic church in memory of both Gutierrez Gonzales, who worked as a prep cook, and general manager Emerall Vaughn-Dahler.

The two were working before noon on Monday, April 24, 2023, when someone shot Vaughn-Dahler twice and Gonzales once as they worked to prepare the restaurant.

The family has talked about Gonzales' kind, gentle spirit. They can think of no one who would target him.

Gutierrez Gonzales went by the nickname "Nacho"   CBS

"This is Ignacio's sister Victoria," said Lopez.

"She wants justice for her brother," he said interpreting for her, then turned to his wife Cinthia Gonzales.

"What do you want for your father?"

"We want justice for my wife's father," he said.

Andrew Dahler, husband of Emerall, said he has a lot of emotion a year after the tragedy.

"I didn't think that this would be something that I would have to go through over the last year. The deep sadness, the confusion," said Andrew.

Emerall Vaughn-Dahler with Andrew Dahler Andrew Dahler

"Day by day I'm taking it and trying to determine where I can find the little pieces of positivity throughout the day to kind of keep me going," he said.

The couple was married four years before her death. Memories of her are strong.

"She was the most selfless person that would do anything for everyone. But she was also extremely understanding and made sure that those around her understood what her actions and her words meant."

Andrew Dahler has tried to find ways to handle the sadness of the loss. He has partial custody of his wife's son. 

"He's a typical teenage boy. Seventh grade and working through school and girls and video games. But he's good. Kids are resilient and he's showing that every day," he said.

As to the investigation, Andrew believes police are working the case.

"I believe so. I mean I don't get weekly updates and I don't really want weekly updates," he said about the current situation. "For me I would never judge what they're doing because I have no idea what that involves."

Ignacio's family is less patient.

"We haven't gotten no news. No investigation at all," said Miguel. "I never get any call from the police department."

Neighbors wonder, too.

"I just thought it was odd that nobody ever crossed the street to ask a question," said a neighbor named Jenny who lives about 150 feet from the restaurant. Police did not visit them to ask if they had seen anything or had cameras that might have useful imagery.

"Officers and detectives did multiple canvases of the area on the day of and days following the murders in an effort to gather information and any/all surveillance video people were willing to provide to us," replied Denver Police spokesman Douglas Schepman in an email. "We've also made several public pleas for people to contact us with any information they may have."

DPD declined an interview Tuesday but also stated, "DPD investigators continue actively following leads as they are developed or provided as tips, including recently traveling out of sate following a lead, which unfortunately, has not advanced the investigation. Extensive forensic and investigative work has been done in this case, but thus far the efforts have not resulted in the identification or arrest of the individuals(s) responsible for these murders."

Both families hope for someone to come forward and confess.

"Own up to it. It can't be easy to sit there and just let that fester for a year," said Andrew Dahler.

There remains a reward of over $23,000 not yet claimed for information leading to an arrest. People who contact contact Metro Denver Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous.

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