December 1, 2023
Authorities in Sunnyvale announced that a suspect has been identified in the 1979 slaying of an 18-year-old woman.

SUNNYVALE — For nearly 44 years, Estella Elena Mena’s death was a mystery. On Oct. 27, 1979, the 18-year-old woman was working as a security guard in the lobby of a Sunnyvale business when she was brutally stabbed multiple times during an attempted sexual assault, leading to her death at a hospital later that night.

According to police, there were no suspects or leads in the homicide case — until now.

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety announced Thursday that Mena’s alleged killer has been identified through forensic testing as Samuel Silva, who was also 18-years-old at the time of the slaying.

According to authorities, a sample of male blood was found at the original crime scene but a positive identification was unable to be made for decades. In Oct. 2022, Sunnyvale police submitted the sample for additional testing, which yielded new leads about the suspect’s identity.

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Last year’s testing finally produced an identification from the original blood sample, but that person was eliminated from the suspect list. Instead, police chose to test additional pieces of evidence, including Mena’s bloodied shoes and clothing, and that testing revealed Silva as a potential suspect.

Additional investigations both in the Bay Area and in Colorado, where Silva later died in prison in 2008, confirmed to police that he used to live in Sunnyvale and had a history of violent crime including manslaughter, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, rape and firearms offenses, according to the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney.

Interviews, examination of evidence and subsequent searches led police to officially close the case almost 44 years after Mena’s killing and declare Silva as the primary suspect. According to the DA’s Office, the two may have known each other from working together at California’s Great America in Santa Clara.

“There is no statute of limitations on murder or our attention. We never forget,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said, “We don’t forget the crime or the criminals. We don’t forget the victims, ever.”