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COLD CASE: 32 years later, investigators continue searching for answers in murder of Joseph Fernandes

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Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-10 18:15:04-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)— It has now been 32 years since San Diego resident Joseph Fernandes was brutally murdered aboard a tuna boat docked at the G Street Pier and the case remains cold.

“He’s never far from my thoughts,” said Mary Montgomery, Fernandes’ granddaughter. “I do have a sense of peace when I'm near the water.”

As a kid, Montgomery was attached to her grandfather. Fernandes and his wife immigrated from Madeira, Portugal, and settled in Point Loma, making San Diego home.

"They very much lived out the American Dream," said Montgomery.

Montgomery lived right across the street from her grandparents, and many of her earliest memories are with Fernandes.

“He had spent his entire career fishing for tuna here out of San Diego Bay, and I remember as a little girl on his days off he still wanted to come down to the harbor to spend time, hang around the boats, and every now and then when the stars aligned and the opportunity arose, he would take me tagging along with him. Those are some of my favorite memories.

Fernandes was 69 years old, the retired fisherman was working as a night watchman aboard the Sea Quest Tuna Boat, which was docked at the G Street Pier.

“I was 4 and a half years old when my grandfather passed away,” said Montgomery.

As night fell between July 7th and 8th 1990, Fernandes would take his last breath on that boat.

“Joseph Fernandes, the night watchman was stabbed to death in an apparent robbery, during his 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift on Sunday,” said 10News reporter Bob Lawrence in a report from July 1990.

32 years ago the case was covered on the local TV news and in the newspapers; something a child couldn't quite understand. Montgomery remembers seeing a picture of Fernandes holding her as a baby, played on the local news.

“I remember pointing at the TV and I said, ‘Mom, mom! Grandpa and I are on TV, when is he going to be home, he's gotta see this!’ and that's my memory of how I realized something was very, very wrong,” she said.

Investigators believe they know who killed Fernandes and took his car, which was later recovered in Los Angeles. Detectives it was sold to people not involved in the murder.

“There was a lot of evidence pointing to this particular offender. Number one, several people saw him running from the scene right about the time of the murder, he mentioned he was involved in a murder to at least one person, and he was identified as the person who sold the stolen car to the people up in LA,” said Tony Johnson, a senior investigator with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Johnson is also a former homicide detective for the San Diego Police Department.

He has word on Fernandes’ case on and off for the last decade.

The suspect is Gregorio Arturo Quezada Monsivais, who was identified by investigators but never caught. Police say Monsivais also went by the name Gregorio Cortez-Cortez.

“We think it was a robbery, or possibly an anger attack, apparently Mr. Fernandes had refused work to this particular offender prior to that, so they got into a little argument,” said Johnson. "Fernandes was found by his relief watchman who came on board, couldn’t find him, asked for a friend and then when the friend came and they searched the boat they found his body. He had been stabbed multiple times, it looks like the attack occurred on the galley area which is on the main deck of the boat, at some point he was pushed or lowered down the hatch to what’s called the wet deck."

Johnson tells us he believes Monsivais is more than likely in Mexico. He said Mexico's extradition restrictions at the time of the murder made it difficult to track him down. If alive, Monsivais would be in his mid-50s today.

“I think this one is a good shot for closure because we have good identification on the offender, we have good physical evidence, good witnesses, the witnesses are still around,” said Johnson. “Today I don't know where he is, tomorrow I may know where he is, and that'll make all the difference.”

“There's not a day that goes by, that he is not with me,” said Montgomery.

The family has waited 32 years for answers now hoping a fresh look at the case will help someone come forward, or remember something important, and finally close this painful chapter in their lives.

“It’s really reassuring to know that there are professionals within the district attorney’s office who have not forgotten my grandfather or his case, even 32 years later they are just as passionate and committed to solving this and bringing my family that sense of closure as they were when this happened in 1990,” said Montgomery who has checked in with the DA’s office over the years. “It is frustrating to know that the individual who is suspected of really taking my grandfather away is still out there. I’m hopeful that there have been tremendous advancements in technology when it comes to DNA, it’s very hard to not leave a digital footprint nowadays, so I’m hopeful it’ll be a bit more difficult to evade capture.”

If you have any helpful information on this case, you are asked to please call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-580-TIPS (8477) or the U.S. Marshals at 1-800-336-0102.