SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Allan Olvera's gravestone stands on the Native American side of the Hicksville cemetery off Highway 99. It's where his family comes to feel close to him and their other family members.
"I feel really like my family is here, so it’s a good thing to be here where they are at," said Matt Franklin, Olvera's nephew.
Franklin opened up about how he helped dig his uncle's grave. He was also there when his uncle's body was found.
What happened to 51-year-old Allan Olvera is personal and heartbreaking.
October 11, 2001
"In October of 2001, the sheriff’s department was called to Allan Olvera’s house. His parents hadn’t heard from him in 4 to 5 days, and he wasn’t answering his phone. The front door was locked. No answer at the door. The dad went around the back side and went through the house through an unlocked slider. They found Allan deceased. He had been bludgeoned to death. Very horrific," said Detective Micki Links, who is in charge of the cold case unit with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.
How could something so horrific happen to a person who was so loved?
“I just feel like he invited somebody over or somebody stopped by to visit him and for whatever reason, things went bad," Links said.
Detective Links sits in her office and clicks through the crime scene photos showing the outside of Olvera's home. Above her, on a whiteboard, she has Olvera’s case front and center.
She’s been working the case hard since 2012, when they got some new information that led them in a different path than the original suspect, which at the time was Olvera’s former roommate.
"I feel that Allan knew the person who killed him," she said.
There were also things stolen from Olvera’s home. At the time, the theory was a burglary gone bad. Now, Links says that’s not the case.
"I don’t believe it was a burglary gone bad. I believe that he knew the person. How well? I don’t know. We’d be really interested in finding out for sure," Links said.
The items stolen included Native American artifacts, electronics and other personal items.
"After you kill somebody and stick around to steal, you are dealing with an evil person," she said.
And for nearly 20 years, the “evil” person who did this has never been caught.
Family and friends come often to Olvera's gravesite. He rests next to other family members in the Miwok tribe.
Olvera's family sometimes lights sage and holds a dreamcatcher with a photo of Allan. The gravesite is where they feel closest to him and his spirit.
"I can't understand why. Someone has to know something or heard something," said Doreen Franklin, Olvera's sister.
Doreen and her daughter, Crystal Martinez-Alire, were the last family members to see him alive. They visited him Sunday afternoon, and detectives believe he was killed Sunday night.
"I thought I heard voices and looked at the television, and there wasn’t anything on. I didn’t ask if there was someone else there," Martinez-Alire said.
They also saw a car parked outside his home. They said he seemed occupied but didn’t think something dangerous would happen.
"We didn’t know that was going to be the last time we saw him," Martinez-Alire said.
Olvera’s nephew, Matthew Franklin, remembers when fear sunk in. He was at a Native American event, and his uncle was supposed to be there too.
"When it came time to dance, he didn’t show up. We knew something was wrong. We danced until about 3 o’clock and that was the last time I danced. I haven’t danced since. I haven’t worn this. I haven’t worn my necklace. It’s a dishonor to him for me to celebrate and for me to wear things when somebody is still out there," he said.
Whoever took his uncle’s life also took a part of their identity in the Miwok Tribe.
"We can’t enjoy our culture. We can’t enjoy our dances. It’s going on 20 years," Franklin said. "We are looking forward to somebody finally getting some justice for our family so these people can rest.”
Olvera was a father figure to Matt Franklin. He taught him about his heritage, and the importance of community outreach and education. Olvera inspired his nephew every time they spoke.
"As a dancer my whole life, I had long hair and when we bury someone, we cut it and burn it and bury it with them and that’s to tell other tribal members we are mourning," he said. "I haven’t had the chance to regrow my hair back. It’s been 20 years, that whole gap is missing. What we can and can’t do culturally. It’s been a hard burden to carry."
Olvera's legacy continues in Native American Community
Olvera took pride in his heritage. He was heavily involved in the Sacramento Native American Caucus.
He worked and spent much of his free time giving back. He was often involved in Elk Grove Unified School District's Indian Education Program, and he always delivered salmon to American Indian elders on the day before Thanksgiving. Matthew Franklin would often help him deliver the salmon.
Olvera also was an activist. Franklin said his uncle participated in the American Indian takeover of Alcatraz.
“Allan was very caring, nurturing person. Great sense of humor and he really cared about other people," said Gail Pilas, who worked at the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance with Olvera.
Shortly after Olvera's passing, a scholarship in his name was established to help young members of the Native American community continue their education and outreach.
“He was important to us. He was important to the community. We wanted to honor him with a scholarship so would remember him every year,” Pilas said.
Alexanderia Russell, with the Sacramento Native American Caucus, said they started the scholarship right away so they could help Allan's mission of giving back.
“When he crossed over, it was really hard for us. We knew we had to continue. He left us in November and the first memorial scholarship was in May," Russell said.
Billee Willson helped form the Sacramento Native American Caucus with Olvera.
"He had such a good sense of humor. I always had such a good time when I was with him. We just became really good friends, and I love being around him because he always had a smile or happy thing to say even if he was struggling with something. He was always upbeat about it. He was always that way, and I was very fortunate to have him as such a good friend of mine," Willson said.
The Allan Olvera Memorial Scholarship is still accepting applications. Many students have received this scholarship to help them continue their education and to help them give back to the community.
The family has never stopped sharing Olvera's story.
"I think it’s time for the family to have peace and closure," Doreen Franklin said.
Their fight for justice is coming up on 20 years, but it is one they’ll never give up on until his killer is caught.
If you know anything about this case, contact the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office cold case unit at 916-874-5057.