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Film will pay tribute to life of tragically slain teen 20 years later

Film will pay tribute to life of tragically slain teen 20 years later

Cecilia Rios. Via Facebook
Cecilia Rios. Via Facebook

By Iñaki Fdez. de Retana

The name of the girl was Cecilia Rios, the one who was 15 when she was stabbed to death after getting out of school. And now 20 years later, local filmmaker Jay Francisco Lopez is planning to make a film in her memory called “Love, Cecy.”

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Rios was brutally raped and murdered on March 14, 1994; her body was found in Downer Elementary School in nearby San Pablo. She had apparently taken a shortcut home.

Although Rios’ killer was tried and sentenced to life without parole, Lopez explained the toll that her murder took on the community of Richmond.”

“It affected everybody, but it never went further,” he said. “My aim is to publicize her story and share it with the world.”

Lopez was merely a kid back then; he did not hear of Rios’ tragic death until five years later. A friend of his had attended her funeral, and she spoke to him about Rios.

“I wasn’t so much interested in how she died, but who she was,” Lopez said. “The girl who wanted to be a poet, a lawyer … she had so many aspirations and suddenly everything was snatched away.”


Fascinated, Lopez visited Rios’ parents, Evangelina and Juan Rios, while gathering material to write a screenplay for the film.

The screenplay is now finished and ready to go.

“We wanted to film last summer but we couldn’t raise the money,” Lopez said. “It will be this summer.”

Through an online campaign, Lopez has raised 25 percent of what he believes the film will cost—the basics: money to rent the camera and lights, funds to cover food for the employees and post-production.

Filmaker Jay Francisco López, creator of "Love Cecy." Photo Mabel Jimenez
Filmaker Jay Francisco López, creator of “Love Cecy.” Photo Mabel Jimenez

For their part, the Rios family has raised grossed $1,800 through several garage sales and selling tamales.

“I never expected money from them,” Lopez said. “This film is dedicated to them and all those who have lost a child tragically.”

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Lopez said that the first scene in the script is Rios’ quinceañera part.

“For her it symbolized becoming a woman; she was excited,” Lopez said. “It becomes very difficult to look at the photos of her quinceañera because if you think about it, she only had 5 months to live.”

In order to raise the remaining money needed, Lopez has organized an activity called “Cakes for Cecy.” It will be on Dec. 6 in Richmond and will feature mariachis and special guest Martin Cantu, lead singer of the legendary Latin rock band Malo, famous for the song ”Suavecito.”

This is Lopez’s second film project after “Sin padre,” the story of a young student from Mission High School who is raised by his Honduran mother in the Mission District. It won the Audience Choice Award at San Francisco’s Latino film festival Cine + Mas in 2012.

Lopez is not the first to honor the memory of Rios through the arts. In 1998, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan presented the moving short film documentary “El Corrido de Cecilia Rios,” which features the song “Los Cenzontles” dedicated to her, by the famed musical group from San Pablo where Cecilia Rios had several friends.

Those interested in supporting the making of this film can visit: For information about “Cakes for Cecy”: Yvonne Cerda 510.932.8926 or Claudia Anderson: 510.367.4966, or to communicate directly with filmmaker:

Story by: Iñaki Fdez. de Retana

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