Thanksgiving is a holiday that will forever bring Alexandra Barrera pain and grief.
Over Thanksgiving weekend last year, Barrera’s husband and high-school sweetheart, Edwin Alvarado, was killed in a triple shooting at a Toronto sports facility. Alvarado was refereeing an indoor soccer match. Police say his alleged killer, 19-year-old Cristian Cuxum fled on foot and has been evading arrest ever since.
In her first-ever interview for Global TV’s new series Crime Beat Most Wanted launching Sept. 30, Barrera renewed her pleas for help in capturing the man police say ruined her life.
“To give us closure to this torture that we have every day,” Barrera told Global’s Tracy Tong. “I think that will give us peace. To his family also, because he cannot be hidden forever.”
Cuxum now tops a national list of most wanted released by the Bolo program, which stands for “Be On the Lookout.” Bolo has partnered with police services across the country to engage with Canadians, and encourage them to be vigilant and keep an eye out for wanted suspects.
Together, Bolo, Toronto Crime Stoppers and the Toronto Police Service are offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to Cuxum’s arrest.
At a press conference on May 1, Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw pledged to track him down.
“Mr. Cuxum rightly takes the new number one spot,” said Demkiw. “Today, your world gets smaller. We won’t give up, and we will find you.”
Barrera also addressed the crowd that day. “Today would have been Edwin’s 50th birthday. Instead of enjoying Edwin’s party, later today, I will be visiting him at the cemetery.”
On Oct. 9, 2022, just after 7 p.m., gunshots rang out at La Liga Sports Complex in Toronto’s north end.
An altercation had broken out between players during a futsal match, which is a modified version of indoor soccer. Police say the game became “heated,” and an armed suspect emerged from the sidelines and fired multiple rounds onto the court.
Three people suffered gunshot wounds: two players received life-altering injuries, and the referee, Edwin Alvarado, was killed by a single bullet to the abdomen.
Investigators estimate up to 100 people were in the facility when the shooting happened.
“There were families there, children watching,” described Toronto Police Det. Alan Bartlett.
“When you discharge a firearm in an enclosed setting like that, anything can happen. And as tragic as it is that Edwin lost his life and two others are injured, the loss of life could have been far greater.”
For Alexandra Barrera, there is no greater loss.
Lives forever changed
Around the time of the shooting, in another part of the city, Barrera stopped in her tracks as a strange feeling washed over her. She could only describe it as “like a premonition.”
“I felt like I was alone again. Like I don’t have anybody to support me,” Barrera recalled.
She had just finished grocery shopping for what would have been Alvarado’s first Thanksgiving turkey dinner in Canada.
The couple’s love story began decades ago in Colombia, where they dated during their teenage years.
The two parted ways to attend post-secondary school, and each married other partners, had their own children, and divorced. Eighteen years had passed when they reconnected on social media and rekindled their love.
The pair wed in Colombia, and Alvarado moved to Canada in 2020 to create a better and safer life for their new family.
“He was so happy because he feels safe,” Barrera said through tears. “But our happiness didn’t last.”
Flipping through photos of their life together, Barrera shares that she still wears her wedding ring.
“This is the only thing that can unite us. This is why I cannot take it off my finger.”
Who is Cristian Cuxum?
According to investigators, 19-year-old Cristian Adolfo Cuxum stands at five-feet-four-inches tall, and weighs around 119 pounds. He has dark hair and dark eyes. He is currently wanted for first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Investigators believe Cuxum is most likely evading arrest in the Greater Toronto Area, but may be anywhere in Canada. He is considered armed and dangerous.
Global News has learned that like Alvarado, Cuxum also has ties to the Toronto futsal community, and even helped his team win a futsal championship in 2020.
President of Futsal Canada, Kris Fernandes, remembers hearing about Cuxum as a young and budding player.
“It’s just a shame. He used to be a talented young athlete. Where did it go wrong?” said Fernandes.
Fernandes describes futsal as energetic and intense, and can be challenging for a referee to manage.
Recently, Ontario soccer leagues have begun implementing body cameras on their referees in an effort to combat abuse from parents, spectators and even players.
“It’s hard to turn the hot water tap off,” Fernandes says.
“It’s the most thankless job in all of sports. I always joke around, you couldn’t pay me $500 a game to do their job because it’s just people yelling at you and swearing. And now you got some maniac coming out and taking the life of a referee. That was a real big hit for the referee community.”
Today, as the season changes and the leaves turn in colour, soccer games across the GTA are returning to indoor courts. Many are haunted by that fatal futsal game one year ago, and the killer that remains at large.
How you can help
Investigators are urging anyone who has any information about Cristian Cuxum’s whereabouts to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-(TIPS) or submit a tip online. A reward of $250,000 for information leading to Cuxum’s arrest is available until Nov. 30, 2023.
Toronto Crime Stoppers chair Sean Sportun is reminding the public that the reward can be collected anonymously, and says a tipster’s identity has never been revealed in the organization’s 40-year history.
“It’s life-changing money,” said Sportun. “You need to say something to protect your community, and ultimately, protect yourself, your family, your friends.”
To learn more about the hunt for Cristian Cuxum, tune into Global TV’s brand-new series Crime Beat: Most Wanted. The 8-episode series covering the hunt for Canada’s most wanted individuals premieres September 30 at 7:30 p.m. local time across the country.