HAYWARD -- More than 100 people gathered on a cold Sunday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Ernesto Calleros, a 19-year-old homicide victim found near an abandoned auto shop last week.
"Help us find this killer, or killers," his mother, Verna Lisa Calleros, pleaded with the crowd as she stood outside the former Perry & Key auto repair business at 28953 Mission Blvd., where her son's body was discovered.
Many in the group bundled in blankets, held candles and stood in silence as they listened to Calleros' mother and other family, including his grandmother Martha Rodriguez speak about his life, his disappearance and his death.
"He goes, but in our hearts he always lives," Rodriguez said, as she stood near a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers.
Family members said they were surprised when Calleros left his Hayward home Oct. 21 and never returned. His father reported him missing Nov. 1, police said.
His body was found Nov. 6 outside the abandoned auto repair shop by a man performing road work on Mission Boulevard. The worker smelled an odor and followed it to an abandoned building, where he found the body and called police, Lt. Roger Keener said.
Police have not released Calleros' cause of death but said the case was being treated as a homicide. His identity was confirmed through dental records and an examination, police said. The body appeared to have been there for a lengthy period of time based on the level of decomposition, police said.
Amy Rickard, spokeswoman for Citizens For the Lost, called Calleros a family man from a tight-knit family who was happiest when he was around loved ones.
"He loved his mom and dad so much that he went to their house every morning to have coffee with them," Rickard said. "He had a very generous heart and always helped people when he could."
Calleros was an Oakland Raiders fan who dreamed of becoming a chef.
He loved classic cars, car shows and playing video games, Rickard said.
Gabriela Mendoza, who said she attended Winton Middle School with Calleros, called his death a tragedy.
"We came to pay our respects," she said as she glanced around at vigil participants.
At the end of the gathering, Calleros' uncle, Michael Leon, thanked those in attendance for coming.
Family members said a public memorial service will be held, but a date had not been scheduled.
Anyone with information about Calleros' death or disappearance can call police at 510-293-7000 or submit an anonymous tip at 510-293-7197.
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.