They wanted her car. She wanted her baby. And because of that, Tina Davila, mother of five and beloved by all, is dead. Her family wants her killer brought to justice.
“She was a good person and she was good to be around,” Davila’s 17-year-old daughter, Patricia Matt, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Wednesday in New York. “Everybody wanted to be around her. All the kids liked her. They thought she was the coolest mom.”
It was April 17 when Davila was killed in Texas because she refused to give an assailant the keys to her car, in which she had left her infant daughter. But the pain of the loss, painted in tears that flowed down Patricia’s cheeks, is still fresh for those she left behind.
The 39-year-old Davila had pulled into a parking lot of a Harris County, Texas, cell phone store to pay her bill. She left her daughter, 4-month-old Kaylynn, in the back seat and started to go inside when she was accosted by a man who grabbed for the keys to her SUV.
The confrontation was captured on grainy surveillance video from inside the store. It shows a man, identified by police as 23-year-old Timoteo Rios, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, grabbing for the keys. Davila pulls back, and the man stabs her in the chest several times before turning and fleeing. Davila, mortally wounded, runs after him before turning and staggering into the store for help. EMTs rushed her to a hospital, but she died there of her wounds.
Still at large
Rios remains at large, and police suspect he’s fled to Mexico. A man identified as his accomplice and the driver of the car in which they arrived at the store and fled the scene, is in custody. Police said he is Kennedy Escoto, 17. He has been charged with aggravated robbery for his involvement with the theft of beer from a convenience store immediately before the attempted carjacking that left Davila dead.
Eric Matt, Davila’s first husband and the father of three of her children, got a call saying his ex-wife and high school sweetheart had been injured. Though the two had divorced in 1996 after eight years of marriage and three children, they remained friends. Matt said his ex-wife continued to help him out in tough times many times over the years.
“They told us that Tina was involved in an accident,” Matt told Vieira. “My oldest son, we both went to the hospital, thinking she was in a car accident or something. When we arrived, we asked about Tina Davila that was in an accident, and the people said, ‘You mean the woman who got stabbed?’ Right then and there is when it kind of shocked and hit us.”
Matt never got to see Davila. But he did learn that she had died protecting Kaylynn.
“The officers said she wasn’t willing to give the keys,” he told Vieira. “Her last words were, ‘My baby. My baby’s in the back of the truck.’ ”
That Davila gave her life to protect her child didn’t surprise Matt.
“She would do that for every one of her kids,” he said.
Indeed, in her community, Davila was known as the “sticker mom,” a title that reflected her penchant for covering the back of her car with decals representing the sports teams her children belonged to. She never missed any of their games and always led the cheers.
And that, said Payton’s father, is why the three came to New York to appear on TODAY. “The reason we’re here is the fact that there’s one more person out there that maybe somebody will know. Tina was very important in our lives. She was a mother that was a good mother. She cared for every one of her children. Just to see the sadness in my kids — it’s a lot of adjusting going on through this period of time. I feel there would be some closure in our family if this other man would be caught.”
A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of Rios, whose police record includes brief jail terms last year for marijuana possession and for criminal mischief and failure to identify himself to police. Authorities say he may still be driving the gold Ford Taurus with Texas plates P42 CYY and a broken left-side mirror held on by duct tape that he was in at the time of the murder.