Family of Man Found in Trash Can Wants Answers

"Pookey Bear" was their nickname for Joshua Gonzalez-Perez, 21, who died after being found in a trash bin Sunday morning. Was it foul play or a prank gone horribly wrong?


The loved ones of Joshua Gonzalez-Perez just want answers.

Gonzalez-Perez, 21, was found unconscious in a trash bin in front of a relative’s home on 10th Street Sunday morning.

“They shouldn’t have put him how they put him. Nobody should be put like that,” said his godmother, Irma Jacques, of Hayward.

Andrea Hernandez, a close family friend of Gonzalez-Perez, said her mother went to take out the garbage at about 6:30 a.m. She saw an unfamiliar trash bin out front and when she opened it, she found Gonzalez-Perez slumped over in a squatting position.

“It was frightening,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said everyone in the house rushed outside. When Gonzalez-Perez wouldn’t wake up, they immediately called the police.

Emergency crews responded and took him to St. Rose hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

The cause of his death is unknown as the autopsy is still pending.

There were no visible injuries and the case is being investigated as a suspicious death, police said.

“It almost sounds like a prank gone wrong,” said Jennifer Duarte, a second cousin of Gonzalez-Perez. “I just find it weird the way he was found in the garbage can feet first.”

According to relatives, a doctor told family members that Gonzalez-Perez had suffered a ruptured ulcer and experienced some internal bleeding.

His sister, Amelia Gonzalez-Perez, 23, said she was told that he had also experienced hypothermia. According to weather reports, the temperature was in the low 40s late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

What exactly happened and how he wound up in the trash bin is still a mystery. Police are still trying to establish a timeline and find out who Gonzalez-Perez was with Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

According to his older sister, Gonzalez-Perez went out the night before and was drinking with friends.

He had made plans to go fishing in the morning with Jacques and her family.

Jacques said the two spoke Saturday night and would call her every other day to see how she was doing.

“That’s why it’s so hard for me to believe he’s not here. It feels like a dream,” she said. “He was such a lovely person.”

Family and friends described Gonzalez-Perez as a happy and caring person.

The youngest of three siblings, his loved ones knew him as “Pookey Bear” because of the big bear hugs he’d give his friends and family.

He was “kinda hippyish” and liked to ride his bike and hike trails, Amelia said.

“He was a good kid. He was kind-hearted. He loved everyone. He was always smiling — just a happy person,” Amelia said. “He was always good to people.”

According to Amelia, Gonzalez-Perez was a certified computer technician but was looking for work. He was staying with his grandmother in Hayward and with various friends and relatives in Union City.

Gonzalez-Perez’s death is especially heartbreaking for the family. His mother passed away in 2010 from a stroke. “He was really close to her,” Amelia said.

Still coping with the loss of their mother, Amelia now has to lay her “little big brother” to rest.

“Losing my little brother is like losing a child,” she said.

Family members are urging anyone who knows what happened to speak up.

“The only thing I want out of this is for anyone who knows about what happened to come forward,” Jacques said. “It’s not going to bring him back, but at least we would know what happened to him.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Union City Police Department at 510-471-1365. Anonymous tips can also be left at 510-675- 5207 or tips@unioncity.org.

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