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'Selfless and caring': Family remembers single mother killed by ex-boyfriend at fast food restaurant

Maria Ledesma-Ramirez was working at the fast food restaurant when police say she was shot and killed Wednesday night.

PHOENIX — Maria Ledesma-Ramirez was at work. Her ex-boyfriend kept calling her. When she finally answered, they fought. The conversation allegedly ended with him saying he was going to kill her.

Ten minutes later, Gerardo Vazquez Alvarez reportedly shot and killed the single mother of two late Wednesday night. 

Maria was a manager at Burger King on 19th Avenue and Buckeye Road. She was promoted into the role just a few months after being hired, her mother, Maria Christina Ramirez, told 12News.

“I don’t know what happened, for it reached a point for him to come and take her life,” the mother said with tears rolling down her face.

Maria’s mother was lost for words. She doesn’t understand why her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, whom she ended a relationship with four years ago, killed her.

“She was a fighter; her priority always was her kids,” Ramirez said. “She went to work, home, and took her kids to work. She was one of those rare moms that cooked her child’s lunch and took it to them at school. She did everything for them.”

Maria had been working at the fast-food restaurant for about two years. Another co-worker we spoke to met her last summer.

“She was more than a manager. She was my friend,” he said. “She was like a second mother to me. Very selfless and caring.”

He was at work on Wednesday when the tragedy occurred.

The co-worker remembers Maria getting several back-to-back calls from a private number, but she didn’t answer them. Until she finally took the call.

He said Maria told him it was her ex-boyfriend and remembers seeing her walk to a back office.

“When she hung up with him, she was crying… she said he was going to come back and kill her,” he said. “He told her he was going to wait for her outside, and I told her I’m not going to let her go outside.”

The pair talked for about 10 minutes.

“She told me, if anything happens, to tell her kids she loved them. And that’s it. Then she went to the front, and it happened,” the co-worker said.

He remembers hearing the shots. He looked at the front counter and saw Maria and a teenage employee, who was giving her a hug, fall.

He said he ran to help the pair, while the suspect, who he remembers said nothing during or after the incident, fled.

Maria died at the scene. The teenage employee was critically injured but is in stable condition as of Thursday, Phoenix police said.

Detectives from the homicide unit located Vazquez Alvarez hours after the shooting in south Phoenix. He was taken into custody “after his vehicle was disabled by officers from the Special Assignments Unit,” police said.

“I tried to help her, I tried, but I couldn’t,” he said about his beloved friend while fighting back the tears.

Maria’s sons called him “Tio,” which means “Uncle” in English. He will now focus on being there for the two boys he considers family.

That’s the same goal for Maria’s parents, who say the boys always blessed her mother before she left for work.

“That’s what she took, a blessing from her sons,” Ramirez said. “It’s now our turn to fight for them.”

Vazquez Alvarez allegedly admitted to shooting Maria during an interview with detectives. He was booked into the Maricopa County Jail for multiple felony charges, including first-degree murder.

The family is fundraising for funeral expenses. They plan to bury her in their hometown of Guanajuato, Mexico. You can help donate here.

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