SAN JUAN — Tears were shed as Esperanza “Hope” Trevino, Melissa Lucio’s mother, was embraced by Lucio’s cousin Juan Hernandez on Friday night, here amid a group of supporters who gathered at a place of faith to pray for clemency.

Lucio’s family sat with signs provided by the church against capital punishment. Others wore shirts that said “Save Melissa Lucio.”

The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville held a prayer vigil at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle National Shrine on Friday evening in support of Lucio, a Harlingen mother who is scheduled to be executed next week.

“We are praying for an end to the death penalty and for Melissa Lucio … adding another death to a tragic death doesn’t make anything any better,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores said before the vigil.

Lucio has been on death row since 2008 after she was found guilty of capital murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah Alvarez, whose body displayed extensive injuries.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said in January that the prosecution’s evidence has held up as proof of murder, but members of the Lucio family believe Mariah died after falling down the stairs at their home.

Her appellate attorneys are gathering more evidence for the case in hopes of getting a stay of execution. She’s scheduled to be executed April 27, and is set to be the first Latina woman put to death in the state.

A banner of an angel is seen during the vigil for Melissa Lucio at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle National Shrine on Friday, April 22, 2022 in San Juan. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

The Monitor spoke with Lucio’s sister, Sonya Valencia Alvarez, prior to the vigil. She’s hopeful the execution will be stopped, but fears losing her sister if efforts to get her off death row prove unsuccessful.

“There was a gentleman that they executed last night in the state of Texas and my sister has the date of April 27, we are faithful but we are still so very scared,” Alvarez said with a shaky voice as she held back tears. “Anything can happen.”

Alvarez was referring to Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, who was executed Thursday night for killing a Houston police officer in 1990.

Lucio’s case has garnered global attention thanks in large part to the media coverage her case has received and a documentary on streaming platforms.

But for her family, the whole ordeal has been a nightmare.

“It’s been 15 terrible years for us, very painful, very emotional, very disturbing. It’s been very hard because we’ve always believed in my sister’s innocence,” Alvarez said.

Photo Gallery: Melissa Lucio Vigil

The vigil drew people from throughout the region and out of state, including Rachelle Zoca of Chicago who attended the event with a sign that stated “Free Melissa Lucio.” She believed it was important for her to make the trip to show support for the Lucio family.

The tone of the vigil was largely somber, with many sitting and observing while others held up their signs in protest of the death penalty in English and Spanish, as religious songs were sung and prayers were spoken.

The Lucio family, meanwhile, is trying to keep the faith.

“I believe in my sister’s innocence…” Alvarez said.