Minneapolis ATM photo a possible lead in Eritrean man's murder - KMSP-TV

$1,000 REWARD: Do you know this woman?

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Hagos Melake Hagos Melake
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

It's been nearly a year since a student studying computer engineering at Inver Hills Community College was shot to death and dumped in a Shoreview, Minn. parking lot, but investigators are hoping they are close to a break in the case.

So far, police say their leads have led them to dead ends; however, a new video is renewing hope that they could be close to identifying a person of interest in the death of Hagos Melake.

"Really caring, loving," Wainy Melake described. "All his friends loved him."

The Melake family moved to Minnesota from the east African country of Eritrea in the early 1990s in search of a better life. When Wainy Melake graduated from high school last year, her big brother put his old cap and gown on to pose for a family photo. Unfortunately, things have been far from picture perfect for the Melakes lately.

"Losing someone that close -- I've never lost someone like losing my other half," she reflected. "Life is really changing and he's instantly gone."

Now, investigators are hoping to find a mysterious woman who was caught on camera with a key piece of evidence in the student's death. According to police, Hagos Melake left the Hunan Garden Restaurant in downtown St. Paul at about 1:30 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 29 with two men he'd met there just minutes before.

A few hours later, police found his body in an upscale neighborhood in Shoreview. He had been fatally shot, and did not have any identification on him. A couple of hours before police discovered his body there, a woman is seen on surveillance video using his ATM card at a bank near Emerson and West Broadway in north Minneapolis, taking cash from his account.

"We believe this individual is someone who had a relationship or knowledge of people who Melake left the bar with," Undersheriff Jack Serier said. "We don't believe she's a suspect or that she did anything, but we assume she had a relationship or knowledge of them in order to come into possession of that ATM card."

Yet, even though investigators have put her picture on flyers and handed them out to dozens of businesses in the area, they haven't been able to identify her in the last 10 and a half months.

"Hard -- he was my friend, my first son," Tsegay Melake told Fox 9 News. "Not like dad and son. We share everything. He never hid what was happening to him."

A few days before he died, Hagos Melake sent a letter to his little sister to wish her well as she started college classes at North Dakota State University. Now, she says finding the people who took him from their family would be the best way to thank him.

"Just coming out and telling us what happened would mean the world," she said. "Just putting us all at peace. No anger, just going on with our lives. That's all we really need."

Crimestoppers is now offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the woman in the video, and tips can be made anonymously. Those who have information are urged to call the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office at 651-767-0640.

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