Five years after their son’s death, a Portland couple hopes someone will come forward with new information.

PORTLAND (AP) – The mother of Robert Joyal remains hopeful that a suspect will be brought to justice in the high-profile murder of her 18-year-old son.

Five years have passed since Robert Joyal was fatally stabbed in the back during an early morning melee in the parking lot of Denny’s restaurant. Although there were dozens of teenagers in the parking lot at the time of the stabbing, the case remains unsolved.

Faith Joyal still wants to know who is responsible for her son’s death on April 4, 1998. She feels her son deserves it.

“You have to know the truth,” she said. “It’s really important to know the truth even though the truth can be uncomfortable.”

“I think that Robert is certainly a person who is worth getting justice for,” she said. “I don’t want him to just be forgotten and written off as something that happened at Denny’s five years ago.”

Robert Joyal was a Gorham High School senior when he loaded his belongings into a Ford Bronco he had just bought and moved out of his family’s house in Gorham to a Portland apartment.

He never unloaded his car. After a night of dancing at an alcohol-free club in Portland, Joyal and his friends gathered in the parking lot of Denny’s.

When a simmering confrontation fight broke out between other youths erupted into a fight, Joyal stepped in to help a friend. That’s when he was stabbed three times.

Later that spring, police built a case and arrested 15-year old Seiha Srey based on statements from two witnesses, one who said he saw the stabbing and another who said Srey told her about it.

Srey’s lawyers argued that other witnesses said someone else was the killer, which posed enough doubt that prosecutors withdrew the charges a week before the trial.

Police say Srey remains a prime suspect, and that they continue to investigate others who may have been involved. Srey is now serving a two-year sentence for burglary and having a loaded gun in his car and faces the possibility he will be deportated to Cambodia when released from prison.

Deputy Chief William Ridge, head of Portland’s investigations bureau, said the case is routinely reviewed by detectives. Even if suspects are beyond prosecution, he said investigators will pursue the case, intent on getting the answers Joyal’s family deserves.

“Every time we get new information or a new lead or a new theory, we’ll pursue that to its logical conclusion,” he said.

Faith Joyal now believes others were involved and suspects gang members from Boston not only had a hand in her son’s killing, but have intimidated witnesses. She wants people who were there that night to be reminded of her son’s murder and to reconsider their decision to stonewall police.

“I think the passage of time means your talking about 17- and 18-year-olds that are five years older now,” she said. “Some of them have children of their own. Maybe that changes you, gives you a conscience.”

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