‘I built my life around him. … Now what?’ asks mother of slain 19-year-old

For the umpteenth time, Patricia Sarmiento watched her son, Nick Cubas, skateboard across the TV screen, mirroring his movements through the tricks. 

“This next one’s called the Celine,” she said.

She prepared herself on the edge of the couch. In time with the skateboard, she whirled her fingers in three small circles. The board landed soundly with the clap of her hands. Under her breath, she muttered, “Eres mi vida.” You are my life. 

After her son was found dead of gunshot wounds in the 7400 block of Willow Street in Long Beach, near the San Gabriel River, she put all of her son’s skating videos into a YouTube playlist, streaming them on repeat in her living room. The loss of her son still hasn’t set in, the single mother said. In the brief moments watching the videos, she has her son back. 

“I built my life around him,” Sarmiento said. “I moved out here to be close while he went to school. I worked so I could take care of him. Now what?”

On Aug. 3, the day before police found his body, Sarmiento had gotten into a dispute with her son about money. Just before he left to see friends, Cubas had asked for a few dollars. But money was tight; she said no. As he walked out the door, she called out that she loved him. He didn’t say it back.

He usually said it back, Sarmiento said. It was their routine.

When Cubas didn’t come home the next morning, Sarmiento wrestled with what to do. They would argue on occasion, but having no contact was unusual. Why hadn’t Nick come back? 

Long Beach police called that evening while she was driving. She pleaded for information, but the officers insisted on meeting at her home in Downey. When she got there, four officers were waiting outside in a black car. 

“The police wanted to talk inside, but I didn’t see my son anywhere around them. That’s when I knew the worst had happened to my son. He was dead,” Sarmiento said. 

At about 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 4, Long Beach police received a call about a dead body with gunshot wounds in the 7400 block of East Willow Street near the San Gabriel River. Investigators later identified the body as that of Cubas.

The next day, Rueben Ortega, 19, was arrested on suspicion of murder, and two weeks later, Edgar Miguel Espinoza, 18, was arrested in San Diego. Ortega and Espinoza were charged with murder and other felonies. 

Adriana Rodriguez, 19, and Jeremy Rincon, 19, were also arrested and charged with accessory after the fact. 

Sarmiento said all four had attended Downey High School with her son. 

“My son had dreams. He was smart. He was talented. He was loved by so many people,” Sarmiento said. “And now, I’ll never know what he could have achieved.”

Before Cubas’ death, Sarmiento had encouraged her son to return to Cypress College. Cubas was always on the honor list and took rigorous math courses while at Downey High. 

But as his second year at Cypress approached, Cubas decided he wanted to become a professional skateboarder instead. 

Sarmiento started to come around to the idea after Cubas secured a few sponsorships from local stores and had a third-place finish at a Downey skate park competition in 2015. He began to show her some of the skating videos he made with friends. The same videos that lighted up her living room on a recent evening. 

“You know, I never really watched my son at the skate park. It was just something he was into, in my mind.” Sarmiento said, cracking a smile. “But he actually was really good.”

Photos: (First) Patricia Sarmiento, with Veronica Cubas, Nick Cubas’ sister. (Second) Sarmiento places a medal her son won in a skateboarding competition on his urn at her Downey home. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times. Video via YouTube.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @jeromercampbell and @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

For the umpteenth time, Patricia Sarmiento watched her son, Nick Cubas, skateboard across the TV screen, mirroring his movements through the tricks. 

“This next one’s called the Celine,” she said.

She prepared herself on the edge of the couch. In time with the skateboard, she whirled her fingers in three small circles. The board landed soundly with the clap of her hands. Under her breath, she muttered, “Eres mi vida.” You are my life. 

After her son was found dead of gunshot wounds in the 7400 block of Willow Street in Long Beach, near the San Gabriel River, she put all of her son’s skating videos into a YouTube playlist, streaming them on repeat in her living room. The loss of her son still hasn't set in, the single mother said. In the brief moments watching the videos, she has her son back. 

“I built my life around him,” Sarmiento said. “I moved out here to be close while he went to school. I worked so I could take care of him. Now what?”

On Aug. 3, the day before police found his body, Sarmiento had gotten into a dispute with her son about money. Just before he left to see friends, Cubas had asked for a few dollars. But money was tight; she said no. As he walked out the door, she called out that she loved him. He didn’t say it back.

He usually said it back, Sarmiento said. It was their routine.

When Cubas didn't come home the next morning, Sarmiento wrestled with what to do. They would argue on occasion, but having no contact was unusual. Why hadn't Nick come back? 

Long Beach police called that evening while she was driving. She pleaded for information, but the officers insisted on meeting at her home in Downey. When she got there, four officers were waiting outside in a black car. 

“The police wanted to talk inside, but I didn’t see my son anywhere around them. That’s when I knew the worst had happened to my son. He was dead,” Sarmiento said. 

At about 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 4, Long Beach police received a call about a dead body with gunshot wounds in the 7400 block of East Willow Street near the San Gabriel River. Investigators later identified the body as that of Cubas.

The next day, Rueben Ortega, 19, was arrested on suspicion of murder, and two weeks later, Edgar Miguel Espinoza, 18, was arrested in San Diego. Ortega and Espinoza were charged with murder and other felonies. 

Adriana Rodriguez, 19, and Jeremy Rincon, 19, were also arrested and charged with accessory after the fact. 

Sarmiento said all four had attended Downey High School with her son. 

“My son had dreams. He was smart. He was talented. He was loved by so many people,” Sarmiento said. “And now, I’ll never know what he could have achieved."

Before Cubas' death, Sarmiento had encouraged her son to return to Cypress College. Cubas was always on the honor list and took rigorous math courses while at Downey High. 

But as his second year at Cypress approached, Cubas decided he wanted to become a professional skateboarder instead. 

Sarmiento started to come around to the idea after Cubas secured a few sponsorships from local stores and had a third-place finish at a Downey skate park competition in 2015. He began to show her some of the skating videos he made with friends. The same videos that lighted up her living room on a recent evening. 

“You know, I never really watched my son at the skate park. It was just something he was into, in my mind.” Sarmiento said, cracking a smile. “But he actually was really good.”

Photos: (First) Patricia Sarmiento, with Veronica Cubas, Nick Cubas' sister. (Second) Sarmiento places a medal her son won in a skateboarding competition on his urn at her Downey home. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times. Video via YouTube.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @jeromercampbell and @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

from http://homicide.latimes.com

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