Without warning, two gunshots rang out inside a Dalton grocery store and shattered a peaceful September morning.
A witness driving past the Tienda Ruiz store on Murray Avenue heard the gunfire and stopped in time to see a man run out of the store and escape down nearby Matilda Street. Too frightened to get a good look at the suspect, the man instead stopped his car and ran inside to find a man unresponsive on the floor, dying from a gunshot wound.
Thirty-one-year-old Timoteo Ruiz-Leon was gunned down at 10:21 a.m. inside the Tienda Ruiz at 1000 E. Murray Ave. nearly 18 years ago on Sept. 13, 2002. His murder was never solved, but investigators from the Dalton Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have never given up their hunt for the killer.
Each year, the police department reviews and renews the investigation of a number of cold cases that remain open. As part of a new review of this investigation, Dalton detectives are asking for any information that the public may have about the murder.
“We have physical evidence from the scene, but we’re looking for that one piece of information to break the case open,” said Detective Chris Tucker, who is investigating the murder. He was a patrol officer with the department in 2002 but did not work on this case at the time.
“A lot of times, suspects will brag about being involved in this kind of crime to get street cred and we think there are people out there who know who is responsible,” Tucker said.
Investigators believe robbery was the motive. The store, which closed in the years since with the building now housing a salon, cashed checks for customers and therefore had cash on the premises. Police are unable to estimate how much money the suspect might have been able to get away with. Investigators do know the suspect used what they’re calling a “large caliber weapon.”
While the first witness didn’t get a good look at the suspect, a second witness inside a nearby store told police at the time that she saw a “light-skinned” male run from the business after she heard the gunshots. She was unable to tell police the ethnicity of the suspect, only that he had light skin. The suspect was wearing a black knit cap pulled down over his ears and a navy blue shirt and pants.
“This is a case that still gets talked about in this town, and somebody knows who this person is,” Tucker said.
Anyone who has any information about this incident is asked to please contact Tucker at (706) 278-9085, ext. 9-165.