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Parents fight to keep son's memory alive as they seek justice in his killing

More than a month after their son was stabbed to death on a Lancaster street, Hiram and Maria Calderon are still recovering with the loss of their oldest child while being entangled in a fight for justice.

“Everything makes me cry, so I don’t really think about it,” said Maria of her son’s death and the influx of memories it spawned.

Hiram Manuel Calderon died of injuries he sustained after being stabbed at around 9:30 p.m. Sept. 7 near the corner of Beaver and Conestoga streets. He was pronounced dead two hours later at Lancaster General Hospital.

Unlike his grandfather, Hiram Sr., and his father, Hiram Jr., “Little Hiram” had a middle name, his parents said. Hiram Jr. said he prayed that God was with his son before he died, adding that he felt some comfort when he learned a passerby was with his son during his last conscious moments. 

His parents are remembering their son for enjoying life, being goofy and making people laugh. They also remember him for helping people; something they didn’t know the true depths of until his funeral Sept. 17.

The 20-year-old man was a graduate of J.P. McCaskey High School who also received his plumbing certificate from the Career and Technology Center in Brownstown. Even though he was called Little Hiram, he was the tallest in his family. He was a fan of anime who enjoyed spending time with his family friends and meeting new people, the Calderons said.

Little Hiram’s friends showed up to the memorial service and shared instances of how compassionate he was, many of which are written on more than an inch thick of cards gathered at the funeral. The Calderons said they didn’t even know some of the people Hiram touched with his kind spirit, a testament to how outgoing he was and the fact that he never met a stranger.

Maria has not returned to work. She was injured on the job just before her son’s death and has not been cleared by a doctor to resume working. She wishes she had work to keep her mind off of Little Hiram’s death.

Hiram Jr. returned to work last week. He said nothing can distract him from his son’s death.

Seeking justice

Hiram Jr. and Maria Calderon fighting to tell their son’s story as they seek criminal charges for the man who stabbed their son. The Calderons say they “don’t want the book thrown” at the man who killed their son, but they do believe charges are warranted. 

“We’re not looking for revenge, we’re looking for justice,” Hiram Jr. said.

The parents believe Hiram is being presented in a negative light by the way information has been released, including the details that he was the aggressor. Since their son isn’t here, he can’t defend himself or explain what happened in his own words, the Calderons said. Because Hiram’s name is the only name known in the case, the narrative is shaped to give the “person of interest” the benefit of the doubt, the Calderons added.

The Calderons dispute other aspects of the information released to the public, including the fact that officials have said they declined to see the video and have hired an attorney. Hiram Jr. says he doesn’t want to view his son’s last moments, but Maria says she wants to see it all and both explained their wishes to officials. Additionally, the Calderons say they have consulted an attorney and are looking into next steps, but they have not retained a lawyer and never said that they had.

To date, the Lancaster County district attorney’s office has not pressed charges. Brett Hambright, a spokesman for the Lancaster County district attorney, issued the following statement in response to a statement by the Calderons Oct. 3: 

“We certainly understand the family is grieving and has questions. We set up the meeting ready to provide all the information we have, explain the relevant law, answer all questions, as well as offer to show the videos to whoever in the family wants to see them.
They ended the meeting after a few minutes to obtain counsel.
Now that they say via public statement they have obtained counsel, we simply await a call from their attorney to try again at the convenience of the family.” 

Though the family has not seen video of the stabbing both parents acknowledge that their son could have been the aggressor and was wrong for repeatedly pushing the man that stabbed him. Still, the Calderons also don’t think that it should have resulted in his death.

When asked if they are hesitant in making such claims without seeing video, the Calderons said from what they have been told, Hiram didn’t deserve to be stabbed. Per information disclosed by detectives, Hiram never did more than yell at and push the man who stabbed him, the Calderons said. That makes them wonder why no charges were pressed because Hiram didn’t pose a deadly threat.

Hiram Manuel Calderon’s death certificate says he was stabbed multiple times, but his family says detectives are telling them he was only stabbed once. That’s another of the inconsistencies the family cites when pushing for justice in the case. Everything they have heard is hearsay from the detective, Hiram and Maria told PennLive, noting that they want all the evidence in the case released.

Maria said she recognizes the fact her family’s emotions are strong but insists they are thinking with clear heads. She pointed to an instance where a someone she knows spent time in prison for a non-fatal stabbing where he felt threatened, but deadly force was not necessary in the eyes of the law. The Calderons believe the same applies in this case.

Hiram Jr. and Maria are adamant that their son was peaceful and typically stayed out of trouble. Online court records show misdemeanor offenses for retail theft, criminal mischief, and harassment, all incidents the Calderons say the are aware of and are not indicative of their son’s character.

“It’s not like our son was (living a life) where I could think something like that would happen in his future,” Maria said.

Leah Greco, a family friend who sat in on the interview with PennLive, said she has known the Calderons for years adding that Hiram and Maria do not excuse their children’s bad behavior. She spoke Little Hiram’s character, adding that her husband, Paul, began his friendship with Little Hiram while he was a youth pastor at Lancaster First Assembly, and bonded with the young man spiritually.

As of now, Calderon’s family is working to determine next steps for handling the case. A Facebook group #JusticeforHiram is up and a change.org petition to the district attorney was created. A gofundme campaign was also launched to pay for legal fees for this case.

“Our son isn’t able to fight for himself,” Hiram Jr. said. “We’re going to fight for him.”

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