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Orozco described as witty and wonderful, took custody of her nephew

Jessica Orozco, shown with her nephew, James, in an undated photo, was pronounced dead at KRMC after sheriff's deputies responded to a weapons offense late Saturday night in Golden Valley. (Courtesy)

Jessica Orozco, shown with her nephew, James, in an undated photo, was pronounced dead at KRMC after sheriff's deputies responded to a weapons offense late Saturday night in Golden Valley. (Courtesy)

KINGMAN – Law enforcement officials have released no further details on the shooting death of Jessica Mae Orozco late Saturday night in Golden Valley, confirming only that she was killed by a single shot in the 3100 block of Concho Drive.

They’re investigating a weapons offense, but have made no arrests in connection with the incident, Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Orozco’s friends have taken to social media to get more information about the incident, talk about what a wonderful person she was and schedule a memorial service at 10 a.m. Friday at the Hualapai Tribal Gym, 960 Rodeo Way, in Peach Springs.

Due to the nature of the incident, it will be a closed casket service with cremation to follow. Another service will be held in Orozco’s hometown of Indian Canyons, California, and her final resting place is Our Lady of Sorrows Cemetery in Reno.

Orozco, 31, lived in Kingman for the last couple years and worked as a range scientist for the Hualapai Tribe, manager of the Arizona Section of Society of Range Management.

She studied at San Francisco State University and Claremont Graduate University, and previously worked at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden in Claremont.

Orozco had taken custody of her 10-year-old nephew, James, and was raising him on her own.

In her last Facebook post at 12:39 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, with a picture of James at a Halloween costume shop, Orozco wrote:

“Happy birthday, James. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since you were born. I remember it (like) it was yesterday. Time sure flies by. Auntie loves you more than anything in the world, even plants. Let’s see what the next 10 years bring.”

Coworkers said Orozco was passionate about plants, pointing them out by their Latin names on walks and hikes.

“She was very intelligent and very witty,” said Dan Ondrejka, operations manager for KWLP radio station in Peach Springs, where Orozco was a volunteer DJ once a week. “It’s been kind of hard around here the last couple of days. She could light up any room.”

KWLP aired a two-hour “sendoff” for Orozco on Tuesday, with station manager Terri Hutchins inviting fellow DJs and community members to come in and speak during the memorial. They played some of the music from Orozco’s show, “Alternative Oasis.”

In an Oct. 30 blog on Crikey, Australian Bob Gosford wrote about meeting Orozco at an annual meeting of the Society of Ethnobiology.

“She had a warm and infectious laugh, a razor wit matched with fiendish intelligence and was humble and gracious with it all,” he wrote. “I never heard or read a mean or angry word from her.”

Details of what happened to Orozco on the night of Oct. 27 are sketchy.

According to unconfirmed reports, Orozco had taken her nephew’s friend home from a party. After the child failed to get a response from knocking on the door, Orozco stepped up and knocked more firmly. That’s when someone fired a gun through the door.

“I don’t know where anybody is getting information,” MCSO spokeswoman Anita Mortensen said. “Hopefully we’ll have more information in the coming days, depending on how the detectives are going with their investigation.”

David Coxen of Ontario said he met Orozco about seven years ago when she was in the graduate program at the botanical gardens. They would talk in the mornings and he became her “surrogate” father.

“She never knew her father and when she lost her mother and grandmother, she was in a bad way and we told her we’d be happy to be her mom and dad,” Coxen said in an emotional phone interview with the Daily Miner. “We kind of bonded. She was close to the family. This whole thing has really affected us. Clearly a tragedy.”

Coxen said Orozco filled a room with laughter and was so happy to be hired by the Hualapai Nation.

“She had so much to offer and so much to give,” Coxen continued. “Jessica was never in a place where it’s a violent situation. Jessica had no enemies on Earth. I mean no one. You can see her in picture after picture, with diverse groups of every type, she was loved by everyone. A more wonderful person never walked this Earth. That’s a fact.”

His partner, Diana Campbell, said she’s most concerned about James’ welfare.

“James had a harder life than Jesse Mae. His mother is a user and he actually lived on the streets when he was younger. She (Orozco) fought for him and won and gave him a stable place,” Campbell said.

The boy has been placed with a case manager at the Arizona Department of Child Safety in Kingman.

Erma Gardner took Orozco into her home while she was finishing up her master’s degree at Claremont and working in the botanical garden.

“She was amazing, just wonderful,” Gardner said. “Everything that she dealt with in life prior, she never moped about life, she just moved forward,” Gardner said.

“To have her life snuffed by some idiot who fires behind a door and I read it’s a firearms violation,” Coxen added. “It’s unbelievable.”

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