A slain woman and child found in a wooded area in Central Islip were identified Saturday by police as Vanessa Argueta, 19, and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, both of Hempstead.
Suffolk police would not comment Saturday on whether they were questioning anyone in connection with the killings.
The mother and child had been shot. Their bodies were found at about 6:30 a.m. Friday near Connetquot Avenue and Windsor Place by someone who works in the industrial area, which is near the loading docks of several businesses, including Raymour & Flanigan, Scientific Games and Freeport Paper. Police have said they believe the two were shot sometime after 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Saturday afternoon, Argueta’s family and friends gathered at the Hempstead home where the young mother and her son lived with her parents and siblings.
Grief-stricken family members huddled in small circles in the living room, kitchen and bedrooms. Joshua Argueta, 11, a brother, stood staring at a makeshift memorial that included Diego’s shoes and photos of the two.
Oscar Argueta, 25, the eldest of the four siblings, said he learned of his sister’s death late Friday night when police officers came to the family's home.
He said she was last seen Thursday afternoon at a girlfriend’s house in Hempstead, where she was visiting and had taken Diego. The friend told the family that Vanessa and Diego left about 5 p.m. in a car, with Vanessa having told the friend that her father was picking her up.
But the father, Jose Argueta Lazo, 43, said Saturday that he did not pick up his daughter on Thursday night.
Family members say the last time they saw her was Thursday afternoon, before she left to visit her girlfriend.
Family members said Vanessa was an outgoing girl who was down-to-earth and spent most of her free time with her son.
“She was always talking about her baby,” Oscar Argueta said. He said his sister’s AOL Instant Messenger status reads “loving my little prince.”
The coming week was to have held festivities, with the family planning a house party to celebrate Vanessa’s upcoming birthday. She would have been 20 on Thursday.
Now, Oscar Argueta said, he and others plan to gather at the home to remember her and little Diego.
“I’m hoping for justice,” he said, tears welling. “It’s not fair that they did that to a little baby.”
Lazo stood shaking in the family’s kitchen as he remembered his daughter.
“She’ll be in my heart for a long time,” he said, crying loudly and embracing Joshua. “I love my daughter.”
William Manzanarez, 19, of Hempstead grew up with Vanessa and considered her a sister, he said.
“She was easygoing,” he said. “She was loving and sympathetic. She would help out whenever you needed her.”
He said Vanessa, who worked at Forever 21 in Roosevelt Field Mall in East Garden City, had just applied for a second job at Target in Hicksville. He said she was worried about money and had talked about wanting to better support her son.
“She worked hard trying to keep her son as well-maintained as she could,” Manzanarez said. “She loved him.”
Vanessa dropped out of Hempstead High School two years ago, her family said.
-With Keith Herbert