A year after his uncle was killed in Henderson, Matthew Rogers watched as his family gathered to celebrate the 17-year-old shooting victim’s life.
Matthew didn’t talk — he’s only 7 months old — but his family all said the baby reminded them of his namesake, Matthew Minkler, who was shot dead inside a Henderson home on June 8, 2018. Two teens charged with murder in Minkler’s death are set to face a jury next month.
“I re-live every day what happened to my brother; I can play it in my head,” said Desirea Roberts, one of Minkler’s five older siblings. “It affects you every day.”
Many of Minkler’s family and friends wore “Justice for Matthew” shirts with his picture on them as they gathered at Pebble Park, 8975 Topaz St. They described Minkler as a kind, goofy teenager who wouldn’t end a conversation without telling you to “be safe.”
It was the same park where they gathered almost a year ago to remember the Silverado High School student who was found dead in an abandoned house on the 2000 block of Cool Lilac Avenue.
Testimony during a July 2018 preliminary hearing for suspects Jaiden Caruso, 16, and Kody Harlan, 17, suggested that Minkler may have been robbed after he was shot in the home. Harlan told police after his arrest that Caruso shot Minkler during a “modified” version of Russian roulette, a story his family and friends have said they don’t believe.
Caruso and Harlan have a trial scheduled for July 29, according to District Court documents. Henderson police arrested a third teen last year whom they believe was present when Minkler was shot. That unidentified juvenile faces charges of destroying evidence and accessory to murder.
Minkler’s father, Steven Minkler, said the family plans to wear their “Justice for Matthew” shirts as a show of solidarity during the trial. They’ve sold some of the shirts to pay for a brick with his son’s name at the stadium where his favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers, play.
But before that, Matthew Minkler’s large family will watch the trial and hope for answers.
“Every court date is hard because it’s all the feelings and the memories that come back, and then we have to see the defendants also,” Minkler said.
Roberts, 23, said she hopes her brother’s death stands as a wake-up call to teenagers who act callously toward others. Their father, Steven Minkler, agreed.
“It wasn’t like when I was growing up,” the 62-year-old said. “You had beef with somebody, you just fought after school, then you’re best friends the next day. These days they all want to pull out guns and kill each other.”
The gathering at the park was also celebratory, with children playing, a dog chasing a Frisbee and music blasting from a speaker. When it got dark, everyone lit candles and shouted “long live Matthew Minkler” while family members livestreamed the vigil over Facebook.
Earlier in the night, a family friend held 7-month-old Matthew and showed him pictures of the uncle he’ll never meet.
Samantha Valentine said she was five months pregnant when her younger brother was killed. She didn’t have a name picked out when Minkler died, so she named her son Matthew in his memory.
“They look so much alike,” the 27-year-old said, adding that her son’s birth has “brought a lot of joy into our family; it gives us a little light in our cloudy day.”