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Confusion and Sadness After Band Camp Counselor’s Murder

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The death of 29-year-old Esme Barrera has prompted a public outpouring of grief as family, friends and members of Austin’s music community come to terms with her unexplained murder. Barrera was found dead inside her home on King Street around 3 a.m. on January 1, according to KXAN, after ringing in the New Year at the 29th Street Ballroom & Spider House just a few blocks away.

University of Texas police have released a composite sketch of a man believed to be responsible for at least one other sexual assault in that area early Sunday morning. 

"We do not know yet if the three incidents are related, but we are releasing information on all three incidents in hopes of alerting the public and also receiving information from the public," UT police said in an alert issued Monday night.

UT police describe the suspect as:

  • Black Male
  • Aged 30 to 40
  • Approximately 6″, muscular build
  • Large, dark brown eyes
  • Last seen wearing a grey hooded jacket over dark-colored t-shirt and blue jeans

You can report information at APD's Homicide Tip Line at 512-477-3588 or Crimestoppers at 512-472-TIPS.
Barrera was active in Austin’s music community. She was a Girls Rock Camp Austin counselor and mentored bands. She was a regular at Waterloo Records, which posted the single word, “Heartbroken” on its Facebook page early this morning.

Alyx Vesey wrote “a tribute to esme” on the Feminist Music Geek blog.

Esme was a teacher and gave the gifts of listening, improvising, and problem-solving to her friends. She was an amazing Girls Rock Camp counselor and became a model for how I present myself in front of students and run a classroom. She was hilarious–always quick with a joke, a story about her mom, or a day-after reel about a night out on the town. She was also tiny, but always seemed larger in part because she could frequently be seen at shows or parties holding a tall boy or a long neck seemingly a third her size.

After one of Barrera’s friends posted on the social news website Reddit, appealing for anyone with information on her death to come forward, other friends chimed in with condolences.

“[She] really was one of the most universally liked people that i've ever known. absolutely gut-wrenching that something so horrible happened to someone who had nothing but love to give,” user vitusinnitus responded.

“I also knew her through mutual friends, and she was the most open, friendly person. This is surreal,” user arthum said.

Elsewhere, someone set up a tribute blog to help raise funds for Barrera’s funeral.

Barrera’s friend Avery Allen posted on Twitter that Barrera took this picture on New Year’s Eve of a purple sunset behind the silhouette of a live oak tree and labeled it “beautiful.”

Teachers at Casis Elementary School held a vigil at Barrera's home today, KVUE reported. Girls Rock Camp Austin is hosting a Celebration for Esme tonight from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the Liberty Bar on East Sixth Street. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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