PHOENIX – Melissa Mason was two months pregnant, but the 27-year-old was waiting until Christmas to tell her mother.
That day won't come for Mason. She and her roommate Nicole Glass, also 27, were found strangled to death earlier this month in their Phoenix home.
Phoenix police have no suspects and have exhausted all their leads, prompting the young women's families to plead with the public Monday to help find out who is responsible for the killings.
"Not only did they take (Melissa's) life, but they also took my unborn grandbaby, and that would have been the first," Mason's mother, Sandra Minjarez of Tucson, said through tears during a news conference after holding up her daughter's positive pregnancy test. The test was found in the women's house, inside a plastic baggy with "Merry X-mas!" written on it with a black marker.
"Now all we have is memories, and our lives will never be the same," Minjarez said.
Mason and Glass were found dead by a friend Dec. 3, and police believe they were killed no earlier than 8 p.m. the day before. There were no signs that someone had broken into the home, and police won't say whether anything was stolen.
Minjarez said her daughter had just graduated from Pima Medical Institute and was hoping to become a dental hygienist. Police said Mason was working as a bartender at a Phoenix strip club called Sweet Spot.
Glass pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement in a 2009 drug investigation that involved dozens of defendants, but police said her family told them the case was to be appealed. Online court documents show she was sentenced to probation.
Her mother, Rachel Glass of the Phoenix suburb of Apache Junction, said she and her family are devastated.
"I will never be able to put my arms around my daughter again and tell her how much I love her," she said.
As for whoever is responsible for her daughter's killing, Rachel Glass said: "May God have mercy on their soul."
The women's mothers described them both as loving and generous, and as having no enemies.
Police Sgt. Steve Martos said investigators are looking at all aspects of the women's lives in hopes of finding suspects, but he said none have emerged. Martos said the father of Mason's baby has been extremely cooperative and was not a suspect.
Frank Vanzucchi, managing general partner of Pantera Show Club, said Mason worked at the Phoenix strip club as a bartender for about three years and Glass worked there as a bartender for about four years before they both moved on in 2008. He described the women as "real good girls, real smart," and said they left the club on good terms.
Martos said someone out there has information about the killings, and police hope the families' messages reach the public.
"These were daughters, sisters that obviously are loved by their family," Martos said. "Our hope is that somehow we can strike a chord with someone."
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest, and that amount is expected to increase.
Phoenix police, http://phoenix.gov/police/