Family members say Ricky Virappen was mature beyond his years. At just 19, he was promoted to a management job at the fast food restaurant. He worked not just to save money for college, but to help his struggling parents.
"He always put everybody ahead of him," said Jane Wilson, Virappen's cousin.
And from what two surviving victims in the robbery tell relatives, one last sacrifice may have saved their lives. The two teens who worked with Virappen say they were going to go with him and the gunman, but Virappen encouraged them to stay behind. Minutes later, they heard the fatal shots that claimed Virappen's life.
"If it wouldn't have been for Ricky to do that, they would have gone with and all been shot," said Wilson. "I can't think of any grown men who would have done what a 19-year-old did."
And while his family says they are not surprised by his unselfish actions, it does not make their pain go away.
"It really hurts because Mother's Day is right around the corner and for his mother, Mother's Day will never be the same," said Wilson.
Deputy Russell Gonzales, a homicide investigator with the Harris County Sheriff's Department, says they are working leads. The most troubling part of the case is the way it all went down.
"This person appears to be very dangerous. He gets what he wants and yet he still takes the life of the individual," said Gonzales. "It didn't need to happen that way."
Gonzales says there was no surveillance in the restaurant. A sketch was released last week. Authorities say it's their best picture of the man they say killed Virappen for a few thousand dollars.
"It's nothing compared to the life he has taken of the consequences he faces," said Gonzales.
Wilson says justice would bring the family some closure.
"Believe it or not, I'm praying for this person and praying he will have a conscience and turn himself in," said Wilson
And perhaps it would even bring relief for someone else, too.
"It just takes that one person to make that one call and they could be a hero, too, for Ricky," said Wilson.
If you can help investigators solve this murder, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
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