BIDDEFORD — For 22 years, Ramona and Narciso Torres have been waiting to find answers about what happened to their son.
At the end of his junior year of college, on May 21, 1999, 21-year-old Angel “Tony” Torres traveled from Massachusetts, where he was living at the time, to Maine to visit friends. That would be the last time he was seen.
Maine State Police say the night Angel disappeared he was on South Street in Biddeford. They say the man he was with, Jason Carney, their key witness in Angel’s case died in 2015 of a drug overdose. Carney died without telling the police the whole story about what happened that night. Investigators from the Maine State Police believe foul play was involved. Detectives with the Major Crimes Unit South along with the Unsolved Homicide Unit have been following and developing leads for more than 20 years.
Angel’s parents, Ramona and Narciso Torres, have spent more than two decades keeping their son’s memory alive and pleading for answers.
“Someone knows where our son is.” Ramona and Narciso Torres. While the parents believe their son is dead, they want to find out what happened and lay his remains to rest.
“I just keep saying, why are people so afraid of talking,” Ramona said in a previous interview with Eric Russell of the Portland Press Herald from the couple’s home in Denmark, a quiet town in Oxford County northwest of Sebago Lake. “Somebody obviously knows what happened to Angel. Somebody’s holding it in, and I just wish, if they have children now, when they bend down to say goodnight to that child that they think of us.”
In front of the couple’s home is a manicured memorial garden with a plaque bearing Angel’s name. At every holiday meal, they leave an empty chair. Sometimes on April 1, his birthday, they celebrate with their two other sons by cooking Angel’s favorite meal — flank steak with Spanish sauce, macaroni and cheese and flan for dessert.
They often wonder how his life might have turned out. What would he have chosen for a career? Would he be married with kids? Would he have moved back to Maine?
“I have no doubt he was on his way to success,” Narciso said.
Ramona and Narciso Torres, both born in Puerto Rico, met and fell in love in New York City.
They moved to Maine when Angel was 6 years old. Their oldest son, Luis, was 10 at the time. Their youngest son, Jamel, would come along three years later.
Angel played soccer and basketball. He loved music and dancing. He liked girls and they liked him, his parents said. Narciso said he remembers some of Angel’s classmates bristling “at this brown-skinned kid who was messing around with white girls.”
Angel didn’t get into trouble. He did well in school, first at Bonny Eagle and then Fryeburg Academy. When the time came, he was accepted at several colleges throughout New England. He settled on Framingham State College, now a university, about a half hour west of Boston and 150 miles from home.
He was majoring in business and minoring in Spanish, a nod to his parents’ roots. By his junior year, he had met a classmate named Beth and they started dating.
In the spring of 1999, they decided to get an apartment together off campus. He brought her home for Mother’s Day to meet his parents, and they liked her.
Angel last called home on May 19 to wish his parents a happy anniversary.
“I made a joke and said, ‘One day it will be you celebrating your own anniversary,’ ” Ramona said.
He told his mother he would call again in a couple of days. He and Beth had moved into their new apartment in the town of Barre, Massachusetts, and their phone had not been set up yet.
But Angel left out a detail. He already was in Maine.
He didn’t call his parents back and, by that weekend, they grew worried. They reached out to Beth, who said she hadn’t heard from Angel either. She said she had taken him to the bus station in Boston on May 19 and he was coming home to Maine.
His parents said they weren’t bothered or concerned that he was in Maine because he was going to Biddeford, not Denmark. Besides, he was an adult. He didn’t need their permission.
But they were curious about the people he was going to see.
“Tony was naïve,” his father said. “He didn’t do enough to distinguish between good and bad people. He mingled with everyone.”
One of those people was Jason Carney, a childhood friend who would later be a main source of information for police.
Carney told investigators that he and Angel had spent a few days trying to sell drugs in Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach. The night Angel disappeared, Carney said, the two were at a friend’s apartment in Biddeford but were going to meet with some people who were unhappy about the quality of drugs they had bought from them earlier in the day.
Carney returned to the apartment later and was upset and disheveled, police would later say. Angel was not with him.
Carney, who died in 2015 at age 36 in Rhode Island of a suspected drug overdose, told police that he walked with Angel to a nearby convenience store and that someone was going to pick Angel up to bring him either home or to North Conway, New Hampshire. It was 2 a.m.
“That doesn’t make sense,” Ramona said. “If he was coming home, he wouldn’t have just showed up without calling, especially in the middle of the night.”
Angel’s parents believe fear might be motivating that silence, according to the Portland Press Herald story.
Early on, every knock at the Torreses’ door or phone call produced a sinking feeling, his parents said. That doesn’t happen anymore. Twenty years is a long time.
Ramona said she sometimes sees old friends of Angel’s, now grown men and women with children of their own.
“I don’t want to feel selfish but yes, I do see them and think, what would it be like for us if Angel was alive,” she said.
Jamel, Angel’s younger brother, said he wants nothing more than for his parents to be able to move on but, “without knowing, it’s hard to take that step.”
“They are the strongest people I know. It’s incredible how they have dealt with this,” he said.
He conceded that his parents likely carry the weight of Angel’s loss more than he does.
“But it doesn’t really go away. There are some days when I’m driving to work and think, what would it be like to call him and check in,” Jamel said.
“The only time it bothers me is if people who are very religious say something like ‘God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,’ ” Ramona said. “I don’t know about that.”
The Torres’ are offering a $16,500 reward in their son’s case. Anyone with information about the disappearance of Angel Torres can call the Maine State Police in Augusta at 624-7076, or the Major Crimes Unit at 657-5710.
Maine State Police detectives are interested in talking to anyone who has more information about Angel’s disappearance, said Lt. Scott Gosselin of Major Crimes Unit – Southern Maine. “We are confident that the right information from courageous people in the community is very likely to help us bring a successful resolution for the Torres family.”