The Deck - Maria del Socorro Maldonado Ambriz (Joker, Indiana)

Episode Date: July 10, 2024

Our second card this week is Maria del Socorro Maldonado Ambriz, the Joker from Indiana.Maria was spending what seemed like an average day with her two children when a masked intruder burst through th...e door and changed everyone in that home’s life. In just a matter of minutes, Maria, a single mom, was abducted and left for dead less than a mile from where her children were still hiding. It’s been two years, so the evidence is fresh and the leads are hot. But it’s going to take the right person coming forward to solve this case.If you have any information about the murder of Maria del Socorro Maldonado Ambriz in 2022 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, please call the Fort Wayne Police Department Detective’s Bureau at 260-427-1201, or Crimestoppers at 260-436-STOP (7867). View source material and photos for this episode at: Let us deal you in… follow The Deck on social media.Instagram: @thedeckpodcast | @audiochuckTwitter: @thedeckpodcast_ | @audiochuckFacebook: /TheDeckPodcast | /audiochuckllcTo apply for a Cold Case Playing Card grant through Season of Justice, please visit The Deck is hosted by Ashley Flowers. Instagram: @ashleyflowersTikTok: @ashleyflowerscrimejunkieTwitter: @Ash_FlowersFacebook: /AshleyFlowers.AF Text Ashley at 317-733-7485 to talk all things true crime, get behind the scenes updates, and more!

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Starting point is 00:00:00 Our second card this week is Maria del Secoro Maldonado Ambres, the Joker from Indiana. It all happened in a matter of minutes. A single mother of two was brutally attacked in her own home in front of her two children, then abducted and left for dead less than a mile away. Her violent end left detectives with so many questions, questions they're still seeking answers to even two years later. But one strong tip might just lead them to her killer. I'm Ashley Flowers, and this is the deck. The It was a little before 5.30 p.m. on Saturday, January 29, 2022, when dispatch at the Fort
Starting point is 00:01:18 Wayne Police Department began answering a flurry of calls. The first was from a frantic woman saying that her employer's children had just called and told her that someone broke into their home and took their mom, Maria Ambrys. Almost simultaneously, another line rang. There had been shots fired in that same area. And then another dispatcher took a call about a vehicle that had crashed into someone's home near where the shots had been fired and less than a mile away from where Maria had been abducted. The timing and location of these reports had to be more than just a coincidence, but police
Starting point is 00:01:52 who were dispatched had no clue what they were going to step into. There was snow on the ground, as was typical for the northern Indiana city in the wintertime, and I'd imagine that that had to have slowed up first responders' time to the scene, at least a little. But as quickly as they tried to get there, they still arrived too late. Here's Detective Brian Martin with the homicide division of the Fort Wayne Police Department. So what happened was law enforcement
Starting point is 00:02:18 was arriving on scene. They observed a small SUV in the front yard of a residence. The door was open and a female was found unresponsive. The vehicle had actually rolled forward and came to rest against a home. When the officers checked that female, they discovered that she didn't have signs of life and she appeared to be deceased. Their victim was a perfect match for the description of the abducted woman, 39-year-old Maria del Secoro Maldonado-Ambrys.
Starting point is 00:02:50 And when they identified the vehicle, it was just further confirmation that it really was Maria. It was obvious that she had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and medics declared her deceased right there at the scene. So other units are out processing the scene and discover a lot of shell casings. Shell casings all around the vehicle. A lot of rounds were fired at Maria
Starting point is 00:03:13 and into Maria's vehicle, which led to her death. These rounds were from a rifle. They were not handgun rounds. They were rifle rounds and very high velocity. According to reporting for Wayne, about 30 rifle rounds were fired into the vehicle. Whoever did this hadn't been trying to fly under the radar.
Starting point is 00:03:33 This was brazen. I mean, one neighbor even caught the suspect on video fleeing from the scene. This neighbor wasn't in the house where the shots were fired. They were actually in a house on the corner nearby, which had a good view of the intersection. So after they heard the repeated shots,
Starting point is 00:03:48 they took out their cell phone and began recording, and they ended up with a video of someone running down the street, away from the crime, dressed in all black with a large black rifle in their hands. For detectives, that video was gold. They actually shared a short clip of that and a still image of the suspect with us so you could see that. And that's going to be on our website,
Starting point is 00:04:12 Now along with the video, police also had two more witnesses to the crime, Maria's children. They were still at Maria's home under a mile away. And when police arrived at the house, their assumptions were correct. They found Maria's children, her 14-year-old son and her 12-year-old daughter, terrified and alone. So officers wanted to remove them from the traumatic setting and get a better grasp on what had led up to these horrific events.
Starting point is 00:04:39 So as we're trying to gather information, the two young children are brought down to the police station with a victim advocate. Your children were interviewed and were able to recount what led to the shooting. The children stated that the young girl was sitting on the couch with Maria. They're watching a movie. Her older brother was in his bedroom playing a video game. No one else was at home. It was just the three of them. At one point, they heard a knock at the door and Maria asked
Starting point is 00:05:11 who is it? And the individual just replied that they needed to use a phone. No one went to open up the door, so the kids never got a good look at who was at the door or if there was more than one person. They all just kind of stayed where they were. The thought that they could have been in danger never even crossed their minds. After Maria said that she did not have a phone, they thought that the mail had left. There was a phone in Maria's home. She just wasn't about to let a stranger use it. But the phone wasn't this man's ultimate goal.
Starting point is 00:05:44 It was likely just a ruse. And when that didn't work, he used other means to get into the house. A short time later, a matter of minutes, if not sooner, they heard a rattle or a motion and a noise with the doorknob of the door. And before they could really key in on what was going on, the door was kicked in and a male entered into the residence,
Starting point is 00:06:09 dressed in all dark clothing, all black clothing, wearing a ski mask. I had a black backpack and was carrying a rifle and pointed the rifle at them. The suspect ordered the kids and Maria to the ground. The gunman shouted orders at them. And the children told detectives that the first thing the man said was, I want the money, give me the money. He said if Maria didn't comply, then he would shoot every single one of them.
Starting point is 00:06:36 Maria told him she didn't have any money on her. So then he demanded her car keys. With the kids still on the floor, the gunman took Maria out of the house, making her his hostage. The children had to watch as Maria and her captor got into the car, Maria behind the wheel, and they saw the two drive off. The kids think that pretty much Maria did this to move the suspect away from them. That was what turned out to be her final act, protecting her children.
Starting point is 00:07:04 The children were able to tell police that despite the man's ski mask, they could still see his skin tone through parts of it. They believed he was a black man, wearing black pants, a black jacket, a black backpack, with a black assault-type rifle. Beyond that, though, they said they didn't know anything else. They didn't recognize this guy's voice or have any clue who he might have been. So while this description matched the person that police saw on that neighbor's cell phone video, it didn't give them a whole lot else to work with, other to be a robbery.
Starting point is 00:07:50 When the suspect kicked in the door demanding money, by all accounts, it was for some kind of robbery. It turns out Maria had been robbed before. She was the owner of Jenny's Bakery, Pondade Ria, which was just a five-minute drive away from her house. It was a successful little bakery that she owned and operated for more than nine years. Now she didn't have a lot of trouble there,
Starting point is 00:08:13 but Detective Martin told us that the business had been robbed before. He didn't have specific details on when or if she was robbed at gunpoint that time, but he did know how much they got away with. I believe they got a thousand or maybe a couple thousand dollars when it was robbed. And, you know, things like that factor into our investigation as we're going through, seeing that Maria owns a bakery and that she had been robbed before.
Starting point is 00:08:42 You know, you start thinking, is this suspect somebody who could have followed Maria from the bakery home thinking that she had all this money? She was making all this money or was it the individual who maybe was involved in the first robbery who said, hey, I got this much money robbing her, I'm going to rob her again. And maybe he followed her home and kicked in the door and was going to take her back to her business. And that's the reason for getting her in her car. But according to reporting by Jamie Duffy for Wayne News, a business owner near the
Starting point is 00:09:08 bakery said Maria had actually been robbed twice. Once inside the bakery and another time as she walked to her car leaving the bakery. We asked Detective Martin about that, but he said he could only find reports of the one time. Either way, detectives are wondering if this was a repeat offense by someone who saw Maria as an easy target, or maybe a copycat. Because Maria's abduction from her home actually mirrored another case. Prior to Maria's case, so it would have been 20, some in that 2020 timeframe.
Starting point is 00:09:45 There is another business in the same vicinity of Maria's Bakery that had been robbed before. And the individuals were actually taken from their home and tied up and forced to go back to the business to get money. And that was another Hispanic owned business. So when you start thinking about those things, those situations, you have to keep an open mind and say, man, was this just, was Maria just the victim of mistaken identity? Somebody thought they were going after this other
Starting point is 00:10:18 store owner and going to commit a robbery and a home invasion and take them back to the business for money. There wasn't arrests made in prosecution and the individuals who were responsible for that robbery were and are incarcerated. Even though the people responsible for the grocery store robbery were in jail, didn't mean that there weren't maybe other criminals in the area that were inspired by them. I mean, it seemed like the motive was money, had always been money, and that's why Maria
Starting point is 00:10:48 was attacked. But there is something that anyone who looks at this case just can't shake. The amount of bullets shot into the car at Maria just felt way more personal than some armed robbery. It was over the top, and that confused detectives. In a moment of candidness, Detective Martin shared what their initial working theory of Maria's death was. We don't know if the intent and motive was robbery
Starting point is 00:11:16 and maybe Maria fought back in that car and the suspect shot her. We don't know if maybe there's something deeper that we don't know about. We know the first shot happened within the vehicle before the suspect bailed out of the vehicle and continued to fire into the vehicle. That was concerning for us. You don't typically see in a robbery after that initial shot takes place, the follow-up shots, the additional shots, all the shooting from outside. You know, it's logical to think that if maybe did Maria struggle with this man, did she do something, tell him something within the vehicle that caused him to shoot and then exit the car,
Starting point is 00:11:56 it would be logical to think that once he jumped out of the car and took off on foot that he would just run away. But the individual took the time to continue shooting into that vehicle, which made us wonder, this is somebody she recognized. Was this individual afraid that she could provide his name or his identity? Or is there something deeper in this case that we're not seeing, that we're missing? Detectives, of course, looked at the men connected to Maria. First her ex-husband, who she'd had a history of domestic issues with, and then they looked at a friend who was described by some as a boyfriend.
Starting point is 00:12:34 But both men were cleared. Whatever relationship she had with that new guy seemed to be pretty casual. I mean, he might have actually even just been a good friend. And her ex was confirmed to be out of the Fort Wayne area at the time that Maria was killed. The more people they talked to, the more confusing this case got because Maria had no criminal history, no evidence of any feuds or bad blood. Nothing stood out to detectives as a possible explanation for her murder.
Starting point is 00:13:02 Maria is just a 39-year-old lady who took care of her children, who lived a pretty unassuming life. There was nothing in Maria's history that would lead us to believe that anybody would want to do this to her. So detectives needed to find out if this was a completely random crime, or if there was something they were missing. Authorities had collected a lot of evidence from both the scene near her vehicle and Maria's house. All the shell casings were entered into Nybin, though detectives won't tell us what, if
Starting point is 00:13:42 anything, was found. We know fingerprints were collected, and Detective Martin said that there were many places where DNA was collected as well. But he wouldn't get into specifics on what they gleaned from either the prints or the DNA samples that they have. In addition to physical evidence, there was also that digital evidence that they had. That's something that we don't get to talk about much in this show because we're usually dealing with older cases. But with this being 2022, when this happened,
Starting point is 00:14:09 there were a lot of options for police. We do have cellular records. We've done advanced cell phone tracking. We have digital surveillance from homes, the ring doorbell kind of cameras, where we can see an individual running. We can hear the shots being fired from different homes security cameras.
Starting point is 00:14:29 So we are very certain of our time of crime. We're very certain of where our suspect fled from and the direction that he was going, but we don't have a name for him yet. And that's very frustrating. When our reporter pressed on what exactly he meant by advanced cell phone tracking, whether it was GPS data or phone records or something else,
Starting point is 00:14:53 Detective Martin only gave a vague answer. The best way for me to tell you this and you're gonna hate it because it's very vague in general is we did advanced cell phone tracking and investigating in that area. I wouldn't want to go too much deeper into that at this stage of the game with it being an active case." While detectives worked behind the scenes, the public was left with no new information.
Starting point is 00:15:16 And there wasn't anything substantial to share, at least not until months later. Later that year, a woman came forward and said that her sister told her that her boyfriend claimed he was the one who killed Maria. Detective Martin couldn't release his name because he's not been formally charged for the crime, so we're going to call him Xavier. The tip that we received came from the sister of the girl he was dating at the time. The tip in general was that she was concerned for her sister's safety because there was a man
Starting point is 00:15:49 that she was dating or in a relationship with that had recently been verbally abusive and made mention of killing Maria, not necessarily by name, but described the scene and the situation, and had made comments to the fact that he was responsible for that. We interviewed that female extensively and she denies ever saying that.
Starting point is 00:16:11 But we know from her sister that she did make a statement that her boyfriend is the one who shot Maria. So Xavier's girlfriend told detectives that her boyfriend never told her anything about murdering Maria. But that still didn't stop detectives from going to speak with Xavier directly. We've tried to interview that individual and that individual refused to cooperate with us. Wouldn't even give a statement, just asked for an attorney. Detective Martin said Xavier is in his 30s and known for being extremely violent. And today he sits in prison for a completely different shooting.
Starting point is 00:16:49 But this shooting wasn't similar to Maria's at all. Xavier was apparently mixed up in some quote, neighborhood beef, which led to shots being fired. One of the people ended up dying and Xavier was sent to prison for that murder. So no home invasion, no robbery, no money related motive to this one that they know of. But despite the differences, Xavier remains detective's main person of interest in Maria's case. At this point, to detectives, it looks like Maria's abduction and robbery were almost at random, because there is still no known connection between Xavier and Maria.
Starting point is 00:17:26 So it had to have been a robbery gone wrong. There's other evidence. I wouldn't want to discuss it right now just because I wouldn't want to jeopardize the investigation. But you always have to be hopeful that somebody will come forward. Oftentimes you find that individuals in jails and prisons always want to hold on to something that they know. They use it as a bargaining chip or they try to use it as leverage to get something that
Starting point is 00:17:52 they want when they're locked up or to try to get out of charges. So I'm always hopeful that somebody will come forward and provide us that small piece that we need to get us over the edge and make an arrest and get Maria and her family the justice that they deserve. Maria's murder was only two years ago, and her children are still young. They're both in their teens now. Detective Martin said his first priority is protecting them. But if there ever was enough evidence to charge someone in Maria's murder, only then would he ask her children for help.
Starting point is 00:18:30 Until it gets to a point where we have a very strong suspect, then I would like to approach and speak to them and present a picture to see if they recognize. But I certainly wouldn't want to retraumatize or confuse a young person by showing a picture now. I want to be more concrete. Maria's violent murder took place in broad daylight in 2022. There's video footage of the alleged suspect, eyewitnesses to the scene of the crime. All detectives need is that final puzzle piece to bring justice to Maria's family. It's very frustrating to have what I believe is very good, strong evidence and a lot of evidence,
Starting point is 00:19:11 but we can't track that evidence back to the individual who committed the crime. So it's very frustrating for us in law enforcement to have good evidence and not be able to identify our perpetrator. Anybody who has any knowledge of who could have committed this crime, anybody who was bragging, anybody who has seen the video of the perpetrator running from the scene and recognizes the way they run, the clothing that was worn that day,
Starting point is 00:19:42 anybody who might remember that general time in day even that somebody approached them and was acting freaked out, maybe had a rifle or like, there's this, somebody had to have seen something, somebody has to know something. You don't just run through city streets dressed in all dark clothing and a rifle and a backpack, and not draw attention or draw somebody's eyes to you.
Starting point is 00:20:09 I believe there's somebody out there who knows something and maybe they don't even realize they know it. Please call us. Call Fort Wayne Police Department. Call Fort Wayne Allen County Crime Stoppers or the P3 tip line. If you have any information, even the smallest detail, please call the Fort Wayne Police Department's
Starting point is 00:20:28 Detectives Bureau at 260-427-1201. Or you can call Crime Stoppers at 260-436-STOP. The Deck is an AudioChuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis. To learn more about The Deck and our advocacy work, visit So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve?

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