Jessica Caro never imagined the hug she casually gave her twin sister before leaving her apartment in Paterson one night in May of 2021 would be the last. Minutes after Jessica left at half past midnight, Stephanie Caro was shot and killed while she spoke to a neighbor in front of the home on Butler Avenue.

I had said, Ill see you tomorrow, Jessica, 36, says. But tomorrow never came …after that call about what happened, the rest of the night was a blur.

The twins thats what we were always called, she tells me with a smile as we sit across from each other in her living room in Sussex had spent the day together, laughing and joking, as they always did. They had been running errands, buying balloons, food and drinks for the surprise birthday party Stephanie was throwing for her husband that Saturday.

And at the party that night, everything was fine. We were happy with friends and family, laughing, and dancing, she says. What happened later was just …I just couldnt even register it.

Jessica later learned that the gunshots that killed her sister came from a passing car as it drove down Butler Avenue before speeding away. The bullets struck Stephanie and her neighbor while the two were talking outside, but the neighbors wounds werent fatal. And they werent the only ones shot that night. Seven other people were wounded at a large gathering across town in a night so violent some local publications dubbed it a Bloody Sunday.

Its now a year and a half later, and though Jessica, her husband and two children have fled the city that Jessicas mother had longed warned them was plagued with violence, shes still searching for answers. And though shes unsure if shell ever get them says she wont stop fighting until she does.

Her lack of confidence in law enforcement finding and charging her sisters killer is part of the growing public distrust toward Patersons police department. In April 2021, just a month before Stephanies death, the Passaic County Prosecutors Office assumed oversight of the Paterson Police Departments Internal Affairs division following the arrests and convictions of several officers over several years leading up to that.

And things have only gotten worse since. Theres been officers caught on video beating up a teenager during an arrest, a ring of corrupt cops targeting and stealing from residents for years, and most recently, the disappearance of a man who was last seen with Paterson officers.

Whats perhaps even sadder is that for many residents, Jessica says, the crime-ridden environment theyre living in is simply accepted as, well …thats just Paterson.

Trying to get information about her sisters killing one of 28 that year, the most recorded since 1989 has been an unbelievable struggle, she said.

I want to know what happened, I want to know where was she shot, how many times was she shot, or why, howd it happen, but no information was given to me, she said, adding that despite repeated calls to the Paterson detectives investigating Stephanies death, she has not received any calls back.

I called a Paterson detective who has investigated Stephanies homicide but was quickly told he could not comment. He suggested I reach out to the Passaic County Prosecutors Office instead. And when I did, I was told that because the matter you speak of is still under investigation, they couldnt provide specific information at this point in time.

In an email, Allan Nawrocki, senior assistant prosecutor in charge at the Prosecutors Office explained that the Paterson Police Department acts as the primary investigative agency on homicides within their jurisdiction but said detectives assigned to the Prosecutors Office Fatal Investigations Unit provide assistance to the municipality by facilitating and coordinating the use of other special services.

Monday, October 17, 2022 – In the home of Jessica Caro, an etched glass of her twin sister, Stephanie, a gift from a friend, sits on a table as a memorial. Stephanie was killed on the front steps of her home in Paterson in May of 2021. Jessica has since moved to Sussex where she and her family are trying to build a new life far from the sad memories of losing "our best friend and for me, the other half of myself."

Jessica says she cant let her sister be remembered as just another headline of woman shot dead in Paterson. She deserves better, she says, than to be treated or thought of by law enforcement or by anyone, as just another statistic of violence.

Tears well up in her eyes as she tells me Stephanie was a go-getter, a business owner, and so smart …oh, and a big-time family person, too, more than anything. She was a wonderful mother of two. A daughter. A sister. My sister …a total jokester and a prankster.

The two had lived about a block away from each other in Paterson. They had never lived further away from each other than that, Jessica says. We were always like this, she says, crossing her fingers.

She remembers she was in the shower when her sisters husband called to say Stephanie had been shot and how wet her hair still was when she sprinted over there.

It was just like No, wait, what do you mean? I was just with her, and then I ran, she says.

I got there quickly but it was too late, she tells me, her eyes shining with emotion. [Police officers] were already taping up the scene. By then, Jessicas twin her one sibling, her best friend, her everything was already gone.

The next day, Jessica and her husband Felix returned to her sisters home. In the daylight, they saw bullet holes on the walls, on cars parked on the street. Her husband even found a bullet casing on the ground they turned over to the cops in hopes it would help with the investigation.

But nothing came of that either, she says. Much later, I was just told it was inconclusive, she said. And thats exactly how everything surrounding her sisters death feels, too: Inconclusive.

She says she and her mom, Balbina Sova, 75, grew tired of calling detectives who were either always on vacation, their day off, lunch, or just not in.

For Sova, having to give up her plot at a Long Island cemetery to bury her daughter in it, was unthinkable. Thats not whats supposed to happen, Sova said choking up when we spoke on the phone this week, everyone knows parents are not supposed to bury their children.

Monday, October 17, 2022 – A painting from a photo, a gift from a friend, shows Jessica Caro, left and twin sister Stephanie, who was killed on the front steps of her home in Paterson in May of 2021. Jessica has since moved to Sussex where she and her family are trying to build a new life far from the sad memories of losing "our best friend and for me, the other half of myself."Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for

Growing up, it was almost like we never really had a name because it was always the twins this or the twins that, and now, with each passing day, Im still trying to learn how to live with it being this way …only Jess.

Jessica doesnt have to tell me how shattered her heart is or how alone she feels. She doesnt even have to tell me how much she yearns for the other half of myself, because all I have to do is look around the living room of her new home in Sussex, where she moved just a few months after her sisters passing, and see all the ways Jessica is keeping her sisters memory alive.

Stephanies smile is captured in two large paintings, custom portraits of her that Jessica had made. Shes in almost every framed photograph and is in nearly every story she tells her two daughters. And of course, in all the ones she shares with Stephanies own children, her 12-year-old niece and 6-year-old nephew.

On her kitchen countertop, a fancy glass vase full of red roses sits in her honor. These are for Stephanie, she says, proudly showing off the flowers. I always keep them fresh …I mean, I dont know how to grieve but Im trying.

I tell her the flowers look beautiful and ask her if theres anything that would bring her comfort now. Shes quiet fora few minutes and then says, yes, if Paterson detectives just did their jobs, if they arrested whoever did this …thats basically all we want, justice. Justice for Stephanie.

Monday, October 17, 2022 – Jessica Caro's twin sister, Stephanie Caro, was killed on the front steps of her home in Paterson in May of 2021. Jessica has since moved to Sussex where she and her family are trying to build a new life far from the sad memories of losing "our best friend and for me, the other half of myself." The flowers in the kitchen are replaced every week in a vase from Stephanie's memorial. Jessica Caro is at right and her husband Felix Marte at left.Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for

Daysi Calavia-Robertson may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at @presspassdaysi or Twitter @presspassdaysi.

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