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Manteca cold case: The Strazinsky murder

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POSTED January 6, 2011 2:27 a.m.
One cold winter day in February 1992, a gay man was discovered dead at his home on West Yosemite Avenue in Manteca.

Despite an exhaustive investigation, his tragic death never had a closure. It remains a cold case to this day.

But the family of John Strazinsky, who was working at the San Joaquin General Hospital at the time of his death, has never forgotten their tragic loss - especially his nephew Steve Ftacek who has contacted the Manteca Police Department and the Manteca Bulletin for any information relating to his uncle’s murder.

“I’m actually looking for any information that I can get my hands on. I don’t even know if there was an article about this in the Manteca Bulletin at that time. I’m interested in this information because my uncle’s murder has never been resolved,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Bulletin.

More specifically, Ftacek said in telephone interview, he was interested in any  information he can gather about his late uncle’s untimely tragic demise “because I was very close to (him) due to both us being gay. At that time, he was about the only gay person I could confide in. I was at his house almost daily, if not a few times a week.

“One of the things I’m questioning is that the Manteca Police did not even get a hold of me or question me after his murder. This is very curious to me since I was over there (at his house) all the time. I suspect police misconduct because he was gay. I know, in this day and age, that probably wouldn’t make too much difference. But at that time, I’m pretty sure it did, especially in a small town like Manteca. I would think that I would be one of the first people interviewed since I was his nephew, I was over at his home all the time, and we always did things together,” added Ftacek who was working for the now-defunct Continental Telephone Company in Manteca at that time.

He has been living in Southern California since 1998 when the telephone company moved him, initially on a temporary basis, to help train company employees on the new GTE systems. This was when Continental became GTE which then became Verizon after Bell Atlantic merged with GTE. He is now retired.

After Ftacek contacted the Manteca Police Department a few months ago via the city’s web site, he received a phone call from Detective Sgt. Tony Souza.

“He was very honest with me (and said) that every once in a while they look into this case and can never find any more evidence,” Ftacek said.

Souza, who was not with the police force in Manteca at the time of Strazinsky’s murder, said he is “not sure why the original investigators did not talk” to Ftacek.

Their telephone conversation, however, unfortunately did not flush any new information that he could latch on as far as having a lead to pursue the case, Souza said. But, he said, hopefully by publishing the story again in the newspaper, “it will spark something, generate new information.”

Cold case will always be open for further investigation

Souza said the investigation into this cold case will continue.

“That case will always remain open. We’ll follow any lead we have that may help us determine what occurred. It’s an unsolved case,” Souza said.

The department has been following leads on this case “until early 2000” and conducting interviews, he said.

But all leads have run dry, hence, it’s a cold case right now. But once something new is fleshed out it can be re-opened, said Souza who is supervising the investigation in this case.

He said they will follow up any information that they receive and investigate.

Ftacek’s mother, Penny, supports what her oldest son is doing.

“They (investigators) have never done anything about it. We (the family) were all talking one day and said, geez, why should we let that get by?” she said of finding closure to the family tragedy.

Penny, whose husband Al was a decorated World War II soldier who, when he was barely a teenager of 18, flew bombing missions over enemy territory in Germany, described her brother John as a World War II veteran himself who served in Texas during the war but never overseas.

But for Steve Ftacek, his uncle will always be fondly remembered as a man who “loved opera and had a lot of opera records.

“He also kept a myna bird named Chico,” he recalled.

“My uncle was always so full of life and loved life. Even when most of his family disowned him when he came out to them in Cleveland (Ohio where he was born), he just went on with his life and moved to California.  I remember my sister, Karen, telling me that when she found out about the murder she fainted. I don’t really know how the rest of my family reacted.  I was just coming out myself and kind of stayed away from my family for quite a few years,” said Ftacek.

Despite his optimism, Ftacek said he frankly told Detective Souza that “it’s probably going to be hard to find his (uncle’s) murderer.”

Ftacek explained, “Unfortunately, he used to pick up guys to bring them home. You know, it almost sounds like a movie. In fact, I used to yell at him all the time for doing that – “what if something’s gonna happen to you?’ But he was old and set in his ways. And yes, he was really, really good with numbers.”

For any info about the Strazinsky cold case, call Detective Souza at (209) 456 3414.
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