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34 years after the San Antonio, Texas homicide of 8-year-old Jennifer Delgado, former classmate refuses to let story be forgotten

Jennifer was stabbed to death in a laundromat on June 6, 1988, by a man who witnesses said went berserk after he put money in the vending machine and nothing came out.
Christopher Palmer holding the valentine he received from Jennifer in elementary school.
Christopher Palmer holding the valentine he received from Jennifer in elementary school.Christopher Palmer

Valentine’s Day is a day to share love of all kinds. Love to your significant other, family, or friends. In elementary school, your teacher might have prepared a craft and a parent might have provided little chocolates or candy hearts, while the children exchanged valentines notes.

Christopher Palmer received a valentine from classmate Jennifer Sue Delgado back in the ‘80s at Westwood Terrace Elementary school in San Antonio, Texas. They were in the same 1st and 2nd grade classes together. He told Dateline he didn’t remember getting it, but his mother kept everything from elementary school – and he still has it to this day. “I love how she put a little heart,” he wrote Dateline in an email.

More than 34 years have passed since Christopher received that valentine from Jennifer Delgado. And 34 years have passed since Jennifer was murdered. For a good majority of those years, Christopher has been fighting to keep his classmate’s name in the spotlight, working to get answers and justice for the community and Jennifer’s family.

Jennifer was only 8 years old when she was brutally stabbed to death at a laundromat in San Antonio, Texas in June of 1988.

“It's been so many years that I don't even, unfortunately, don't even remember the sound of her voice,” Christopher told Dateline in a phone interview. “I would just remember her being, you know, this good soft-spoken, you know, innocent little girl.”

Christopher told Dateline that he wished he “remembered more, but it's been so many years.” He did say that there is one thing that sticks out in his mind when he thinks of Jennifer. “The one thing I remember her wearing – I remember her wearing it often – it was like a Mexican-style dress, and I'm so glad that in our second grade picture she's wearing that dress, because whenever I see like that type of -- style of dress, that makes me think of Jennifer.”

Jennifer and Christopher in their second grade class photo at Westwood Terrace elementary school in San Antonio, Texas.
Jennifer and Christopher in their second grade class photo at Westwood Terrace elementary school in San Antonio, Texas.Christopher Palmer

The 8-year-old had just finished third grade and was out of school for the summer when she joined her mother to help do laundry at the local laundromat, which happened to be across the street from their home. Christopher said the laundromat was kind of like a self-serve type of place. “At that time, it was a laundromat and next door was a convenience store and then, like, a beauty salon,” Christopher told Dateline. “And they're all gone now.”

“It was on the evening of June 6, 1988, I think approximately around 7:30 p.m.,” Christopher told Dateline. “They were the only ones in the laundromat and someone comes in, he put some money in the vending machine, nothing comes out and that's when he gets angry and just pulls out a knife.”

Jennifer’s case was featured in a list of unsolved cases published by the San Antonio Police Department Cold Case Detail in the “hopes that new information and leads will be generated.” The case synopsis confirmed that Jennifer was at a local laundromat across the street from the family’s home when a “single white male entered the store and walked to a vending machine,” before growing angry and attacking Jennifer and her mother.

According to an article published in the San Antonio Light on June 7, 1988, police said that the mother was attacked first and then yelled to Jennifer to run and get her father, who was at home with her siblings. When Jennifer got up to run, the man stabbed her.

Christopher said that Jennifer made it out of the laundromat, but didn’t get far. “She ran across the street and she collapsed in the front yard,” he said.

Christopher told Dateline that “they rushed her to the hospital but they still were not able to save her.”

According to the case synopsis from the SAPD Cold Case Detail, Jennifer was taken to Wilford Hall Medical Center, where she was “pronounced deceased shortly after arriving.” While Jennifer’s mother was in serious condition, she survived the stabbing. Police Detective John Lopez told the San Antonio Light at the time, “This has got to be one of the most senseless murders. To stab a small child like that without any reason…”

The detective told the San Antonio Light that the “killer leaped into a two-door gray sedan driven by another man and fled south toward U.S. Highway 90.” On June 9, 1988, the San Antonio Light reported that at a news conference held the day before, officials told the news media that the “driver of the silver or gray two-door sedan, possibly a Chevrolet Chevette, may have been unaware of the knifing inside.”

Sketch of the suspect.
Sketch of the suspect.

“In talking to the mother, she was able to give them some details and they put up a sketch,” Christopher told Dateline. Jennifer’s mother described the suspect as 17 or 18 years old, about 5’2”, clean-shaven with long, dark wavy hair and a slender build. He was wearing a white flowered Hawaiian-style shirt. “They've never, in 34 years, they've never had any real suspects and it's never been solved,” Christopher said.

Another detective told the San Antonio Light that they lifted fingerprints from the coins found inside the vending machine in the hope of identifying possible suspects. As of yet, nothing substantial has come from those prints.

In an article published in the Fort Worth Star Telegram in June 1988, Det. Lopez said, “We don’t have any motive. We don’t have any reason for it. We don’t have anything.”

Christopher told Dateline he remembers hearing about Jennifer’s death on the news. “I knew she was gone. I remember being in my parent's living room and watching it on the news,” Christopher said. “I think at that age, I didn't really comprehend the finality of it.”

He says that it wasn’t until he was out of high school that he really understood. “I guess I started doing different things in my life and I was like, you know, Jennifer didn't get to do this,” he said. “She didn't get to go to college. She didn't graduate high school.”

The vigil for Jennifer in 2001.
The vigil for Jennifer in 2001.Christopher Palmer

So, in 2001, Christopher decided to gather his classmates to honor Jennifer. “Thirteen years after she was killed, I got together a lot of our classmates and we held a candlelight vigil on the day that she was killed,” he told Dateline.

“It was a little difficult getting people together because we didn't have Facebook then,” Christopher said. Despite that, he added, “We were able to get a good crowd out there.”

“I had a local priest from the neighborhood church come by and say a prayer. We all lit candles. We all, you know, talked about memories we have of Jennifer. I brought some of our class pictures and we looked at those,” Christopher recalled. “It was just nice -- us getting together, remembering her -- and it was nice to know that I wasn't the only one that did not -- had not forgotten about her.”

He also invited the media in the hope that with renewed attention on the case, maybe someone would see Jennifer’s story and come forward with information. “I was hoping it would bring some -- maybe someone knew something that was afraid to say something back then,” Christopher said. “And nothing. No new leads.”

The case continued to grow colder as years passed with little to no movement in Jennifer’s case.

Jennifer Sue Delgado
Jennifer Sue DelgadoChristopher Palmer

Christopher grew up and started a family of his own. He said he thought of Jennifer when his daughter turned 8. “I was like, this is the age that I can't imagine losing my child at,” Christopher said. “Slowly, little things throughout my life have just driven me to -- to do these things for [Jennifer].”

Being a father pushed him to work even harder to help find justice for Jennifer. “The older I got and the more things I did, the more I realized, you know, how precious life is,” Christopher said. “We're on the Earth for a certain amount of time. Hers was only eight years… I just want others to know, like, she was here. You know, she -- she lived, even if it was a short time.”

So he got to work. “A little over a year ago I said, you know, I have to do something of a more permanent – like a memorial for her.”

And that’s exactly what he did. “I got in touch with the City of San Antonio and submitted an application. I raised funds so that we could have these memorial signs on the street that will read Jennifer Delgado Memorial Way,” Christopher told Dateline when we spoke to him in early May. “City council approved it and they should be up this month or next month.”

Dateline spoke with the San Antonio City Councilwoman representing District 6, Melissa Cabello Havrda. She told Dateline that she grew up in the area near where Jennifer was killed and was in eighth grade at the time.

“It was a huge news story in our area because it was so unusual and, of course, she was so young. It was such a random, senseless act of violence,” Havrda said. She now represents the district where Jennifer was killed.

The city councilwoman said she was very excited to work with Christopher to help honor Jennifer. “I thought it was a wonderful, really beautiful way to remember her,” she said.

The new memorial sign for Jennifer.
The new memorial sign for Jennifer.Christopher Palmer

Havrda told Dateline that, even 34 years later, Jennifer’s story is still important to the community. “You know, Jennifer's friends are in their forties now, they carry the trauma of losing their friend and their classmate in such a violent way,” she said. “San Antonio is a big city, but we're -- we still very much have a small-town feel, so this isn't the kind of thing that we forget.”

Havrda says the memorial signs are in part to remember Jennifer, but also “honoring, in some ways, what could have been -- what she could have done in her life and contributed to our community.”

Havrda says the new signs reading “Jennifer Delgado Memorial Way” were just installed last week on Westrock Drive, where the laundromat used to be.

“I'm grateful that Mr. Palmer took the initiative and I'm a -- I'm a small part of it, you know? But I do appreciate the opportunity to support my community in this way,” Havrda told Dateline. “And really, more importantly, just kind of, you know, remind her family and her friends that she's not forgotten outside of -- outside of their circle.”

That’s what Christopher says drives him to keep doing what he’s doing. “I wanted something of a lasting -- something I can get back to the community, but also it would be in honor of her and keeping her cold case in the -- in the news,” he told Dateline. “So I created a foundation which we, you know, we raised money and we give out college scholarships, but it's, you know, it's all in her name just to -- to honor her.”

Christopher founded the Jennifer Sue Delgado Memorial Foundation, with the main goal of raising funds for scholarships. He also has another goal he wants to achieve with the foundation. “I hope for this to be a yearly thing – where at the elementary school that Jennifer and I attended every year – at the end of the year, we can purchase books to be able to give each student at this school a book to take home over the summer,” Christopher said. Westwood Terrace Elementary put up a plaque to honor Jennifer this year in a new wing of the building.

Jennifer Sue Delgado
Jennifer Sue DelgadoChristopher Palmer

“I think her family and friends and myself – we would love to see the person to do this, you know, brought to justice and have closure for us and justice for Jennifer,” Christopher told Dateline. “He could already be gone, but if he's out there, I hope -- I would hope that maybe my efforts would lead someday to finding him.”

Christopher says he will continue to honor his childhood friend, the little girl who gave him a Valentine’s Day card so many years ago. And he will continue to push for justice for Jennifer, who should have been able to celebrate so many more Valentine’s Days than she did.

Dateline reached out to the San Antonio Police Department and received this statement from the SAPD Public Information Office: “The case remains open and all leads have been exhausted.”

They ask that anyone with information about Jennifer’s case calls the San Antonio Police Homicide Unit at 210-207-7635.