Ram Ayala’s son and his quest to take over what — he says — belongs to the family
Published: July 6, 2011
There was nothing Tina could do. She says she started seeing Ram in the mid-’60s and that the two were married in Mexico. But she didn’t have a copy of the marriage certificate, something Agnes Ayala did have. Unable to show proof of marriage, and without the benefit of a will, the Cruz family had the burden of proving to the court that they were legitimate heirs to the Taco Land estate. The judge sided with Agnes Ayala, and shortly after the 2005 murders the Cruz family lost control of Taco Land to the Ayalas.
“We had made an agreement with Manuel [Ayala],” said Eddie Cruz. “I said, ‘Look, you’re not going to take anything out [of Taco Land] until we’re all there, we’re all going to take it out together.” Instead, “not even a week later,” he said, the Ayalas began emptying Taco Land. “They threw a bunch of stuff in the dumpster, a bunch of posters, a bunch of stuff that people would pay a lot of money for or even die for. … They threw a lot of stuff away in the dumpster and took the jukebox out, they took the coolers, they gutted that place. There was nothing I could do.”
The Ayala family sold Ram’s 1977 Datsun — which Eddie Cruz had always eyed, though he says Ram regularly responded, “Not for sale” — to help cover the property taxes on Taco Land, according to Sylvia Navarro, Ram’s eldest daughter.
But the worst part of it all, at least for the Cruz family, is that Eddie and Mark never got the chance to bid their father farewell. The body was cremated and the ashes thrown in the river by Taco Land. None of the Cruzes were invited. “There wasn’t really a relationship between us and them because of the bitterness between my mother and their mother,” said Sylvia Navarro. “I mean we were all victims. It wasn’t their fault that my father and their mother had an affair and that my mother forgave him. There’s really no one at fault here. You know, my mom was a victim, we’re victims, Mark and Eddie were victims. We all had to suffer for it, but really there was nothing anybody could do. I can only control what I can control.”
From shortly after the murders until earlier this year, the two families engaged in a legal tug-of-war. Eddie and Mark Cruz had to submit to DNA testing and, once the judge was convinced they were legitimate sons of Ram, he named Eddie Cruz and Sylvia Navarro as executors to the Taco Land estate. “The judge told us, ‘You need to figure this out among yourselves,’” Eddie Cruz said.
Gradually, Eddie and Sylvia were able to work things out, and the stage was ready for the sale of Taco Land. But Eddie took his time agreeing to it. After refusing several offers, he said he accepted a sale for $325,000 in early 2011 with one condition. “I said, ‘I will sign off, if you let me and my brother [Mark] run this Ram Jam without any issues,” he said. “I don’t want any problems from anybody.”
> Email Enrique Lopetegui