What now?


Pardo reads to her daughter, Avayah, on Friday, December 3, 2021. At times when she’s really missing Flores, she enjoys reading books about dads to her daughters. She says she wants to keep his memory alive for them. Photos David Tran

Editor’s note: As part of the final project for the Fall 2021 Photojournalism class this semester students were asked to go out and search for a subject matter affecting their communities friends or family. Because of the pandemic, the photojournalism class has continued to be held remotely. Here is what one photographer documented.

In the last two years, cases of violent crimes have steadily climbed across the nation. In September, the FBI released statistics that showcased this unsettling trend. In California alone, the reports showed the murder rate went up more than the national average. Violent crimes per 100,000 people were also higher in California than the rest of the country. During a news broadcast on ABC7, Sheriff Alex Villanueva of Los Angeles County stated that there has been a 60% increase in homicides this year compared to 2020. So what happens when the father of your unborn child is murdered two months before you’re expected to go into labor?

On Saturday, July 18, 2021, 25-year-old, Eric Flores was shot in the back following a physical altercation. He remained in critical condition until July 20, when he was pronounced brain-dead at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Following the diagnosis, he remained on life support until July 23. Six of his organs were donated that day. A month later in August, a memorial service was held. Friends and family from all across the state of California gathered to celebrate his life. At the time, Eric’s girlfriend, Marissa Pardo, 25, was seven months pregnant with their second child.

Pardo gave birth to their beautiful baby girl, Avayah, on September 21, 2021. Raising a baby and a five-year-old is hard enough with a partner but without Flores in the picture, life has been that much harder. Marissa is currently living with Flores’ family and it has been helpful but she still has a hard time juggling all of the tasks a mother has to do. Some days the dishes don’t get washed, the trash isn’t taken out and the laundry isn’t done but that’s okay says Pardo. She constantly reminds herself to be patient with herself and her healing process. She rarely has any time for herself and can’t remember the last time she’s gotten a good night’s rest.

On most days, she is sleep-deprived but occasionally, she is able to take naps with her daughters on the couch. With it being the first holiday season without Flores, she chooses to go to visit him at the cemetery whenever she can. On days when she is sad and missing him, she enjoys reading books about dads to her two girls. She hopes to keep his memories alive for her daughters. When I asked her, “What now?” She said, “Life can be challenging but that doesn’t mean it stops, I still have my two girls to fight for.” She plans on going back to school at El Camino College in the future to pursue a career in optometry. She is currently an optometric assistant.

Eric Flores’ parents, Nicole and Oscar Venisio, share a last moment with their son at the Church of the Nazarene in Torrance, California on Saturday, August 21, 2021. Photos by David Tran
Danielle Swims, Flores’ aunt, gives her nephew one final embrace on Saturday, August 21, 2021 at the Roosevelt Memorial Park in Gardena, California. “He loved and accepted everyone as they are. We are not the sum of our mistakes and he knew that. He loved and lived freely, his made no excuses for anything. Love him or hate him, he was who he was and he was proud to be,” Swims said. Photos David Tran
Flores’ pallbearer family and friends dressed in Raiders jerseys carry his casket on Saturday, August 21, 2021. “He was such a goof. He didn’t even have to do anything, he just had to open his mouth to make everyone laugh.” his uncle, Gilbert Gomez, number 98, said.
Friends and family of Flores gather at his grave site. His best friend, Devon, number 83, pours out one final beer for him at the Roosevelt Memorial Park on Saturday, August 21, 2021. Photos by David Tran
Pardo and her daughter, Avayah, look up at a photo of Flores at their home in Gardena, California on Friday, December 3, 2021. Pardo refers to Flores as her soulmate, they met in high school but had only been officially together for a year and a half before he passed.
While dressing her daughter in her room at her home in Gardena, California, Pardo mentions that the only things she likes to wear now are her t-shirts with photos of Flores on them. She says they help her feel close to him. Photos by David Tran
Five-year-old, Cattelaya, left, takes a nap with her mom and her baby sister on the couch at their home in Gardena, California on Friday, December 3, 2021. Photos by David Tran
Pardo walks hand in hand with her daughters after visiting Flores at the Roosevelt Memorial Park on November 27, 2021. She knows she has a long journey ahead of herself but hopes for better days to come. Photos by David Tran