As the 31st year since two children, their father and another were murdered at the Las Cruces Bowling Alley slips by, Anthony Teran, brother of Steve Teran who died Feb. 10, 1990, with his daughters, still lives with the knowledge and memory of that event.
On the morning of that Feb. 10, 34-year-old Stephanie C. Senac, the bowling alley manager, was in her office preparing to open with her 12-year-old daughter, Melissa Repass, and Melissa's 13-year-old friend, Amy Houser. The alley's cook, Ida Holguin, was in the kitchen when two men entered through an unlocked door. One pulled a .22-caliber pistol on Holguin and ordered her into Senac's office, where she, Repass and Houser were already being held by another gunman.
Soon after, Steve Teran, the alley's 26-year-old mechanic, entered with his two daughters, two-year-old Valerie Teran and six-year-old Paula Holguin. He went into Senac's office and stumbled onto the crime scene. The gunmen then shot all seven victims multiple times in the head at point-blank range. They then set the office on fire by igniting some papers before leaving the building.
Houser, Steve Teran, and his two daughters were killed. Repass, despite being shot five times, called 9-1-1 on the office phone, allowing emergency services to respond immediately and saving her life along with her mother's and Holguin's. Senac died in 1999 due to complications from her injuries.
“There are a lot of theories as to what happened,” Anthony Teran said.
This is the worst unsolved crime involving children in U.S. history, he said. It haunts him that the girls probably had to witness everything happening before they were shot.
“My brother and his daughters had every right to be somebody and do something with their lives,” Anthony said. “Every day it affects my life. We have pictures on the walls – every day I see them, and it doesn’t go away. Every conversation always comes around to something my brother did or said.”
Sometimes Anthony pulls out a photo of his brother in the military and looks at it and “he tells me to do the right thing.”
The right thing for Anthony and his family is to see the case solved. He said people tell him to “just get over it,” but he can’t do that.
There are so many things you might want to “get over,” things you hear about repeatedly, things your parents tell you or that you see every time you turn around. I mean, this murder happened 31 years ago, why can’t it just be forgotten, swept under the rug, let it go already.
Almost 20 years ago 9/11 happened – let it go.
A little over 100 years ago the Spanish Flu happened – let it go.
Then there was the Bataan Death March, deportations to Siberia, Nazi death camps. Why not forget it all?
Political buttons reflect the ideas that haunt us sometimes. We see pins that say, “I have been vaccinated. Have you?” It’s from the middle of the 20th century when there was a nationwide drive to get children (and adults) vaccinated. The scourge of polio and other diseases was a terrible reality that most of us today have forgotten.
A 1970s button that says “Keep Abortion Legal” was created not long after Roe vs. Wade when the backlash against the Supreme Court decision was still young. Here we are 40 years later, and the fight is still going on.
Then there are the “America First” buttons. No, they aren’t recent — they’re from World War I and World War II. There was a big “America First” movement prior to the First World War that was slowed down, but not stopped, by the war. It was revived prior to the Second World War but died on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Now America First is back once more.
The truth might be that history always repeats itself despite the calls of “never forget.” We don’t seem to be able to get it right. But think of how much worse it might be if we do let it go.
“The advantage of having a historical sense is not that it will lead you to some quarry of instructions, the way that Superman can regularly return to the Fortress of Solitude to get instructions from his dad, but that it will teach you that no such crystal cave exists.” Wrote commenter Adam Gopnik in the Aug. 28 “New Yorker” magazine. “What history generally ‘teaches’ is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they’re making it.”
The lessons of the past teach us compassion, self-understanding, a beginning of understanding others, an understanding of the process of change and appreciation for the people of the world. It gives us heroes and martyrs making us think about what would be so important to us that it would be worth dying for. Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King would not have changed their courses had they known it would lead to their death, why couldn’t they just let it go?
If we don’t hold on to our history, our family, our ancestors, there is not much left to grasp. Anthony Teran doesn’t need to let go of his brother and the others who died that day. Cricket Coogler should not lie quietly in her grave with no resolution and certainly State Police officer Darian Jarrott will not soon be forgotten.
History may be doomed to repeat itself, but without history, we would be doomed to “let it go.”
Elva K. Österreich is editor of Desert Exposure and would love to meet Desert Exposure readers in Silver City or any of our coverage areas. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell phone at 575-443-4408 to set a place and time to meet.