Danielle Lucero gained a family member when she learned Antonio Vasquez was her long-lost half-brother. The two became close, talking occasionally on the phone or through Facebook.
Then in July, Vasquez was killed after a man drew a gun and shot him during an argument. Having lost a family member so soon after getting to know him left Lucero devastated, according to her friend Valerie Jansen.
On Tuesday, Lucero, a 26-year-old woman remembered by those closest to her as a doting mother and talented singer, was gunned down along with two others in Midvale in a similarly senseless shooting. Police have since arrested David Fresques, 25, in connection to the shooting, but investigators believe a second unidentified male suspect is still at large. The motive for the triple homicide, which took place at a known drug house, is still unclear.
Family and friends of Lucero said Friday that they were equally unsure why she was at that house when Lucero, Shontay Young and Omar Jarman were killed. A fourth victim, also a woman, was shot and treated at the hospital. Unified Police say the woman was released from the hospital on Friday.
Lucero had struggled with drug addiction in the past, but she was just starting to turn her life around for herself and her three young daughters when her life was snuffed.
Lucero moved in to live with her aunt Elaine Medina just a week before she died. Medina saw that as a sign that she was ready to make a permanent change and cut ties with the life that had kept her distant from the people she cared about for so long.
"She said it was going to be a new beginning for her," Medina said.
Medina said she didn't know what Lucero was doing in the Midvale house the morning she died. As her niece tried to break free of addiction, she knew Lucero wouldn't get better overnight.
"You're going to take maybe three steps forward and one step back," she said. "Maybe she took that one step back."
Lucero voluntarily placed her daughters into the care of family members in the fall because she knew she wasn't fit to care for them. Her plan was to get her life back together and take them home.
"We were making progress," said Lucero's sister-in-law Lisa Silva, who took custody of Lucero's 9- and 3-year-old girls. Lucero's 6-year-old daughter was placed with Lucero's grandmother, Silva said. Lucero had a job interview lined up and was making connections with her family again, Silva said.
"She was really trying the last couple of weeks, and I really thought she was going to have her family back."
Medina said that behind Lucero's struggles was "the real Danielle,"a woman who adored her kids and could make people around her smile. Medina said that Lucero had a beautiful singing voice. Jansen said that she often told Lucero that she should try out for American Idol.
But her daughters always came first, her family and friends said. In the days after her death, Jansen said she was looking through her friend's closet and saw three tiny dresses behind the rest of the clothes. Jansen thinks she was going to give them to her daughters for Valentine's Day.
"She was really serious about getting back to her kids," Jansen said. "Those girls were her life."
Michael Eugene Vigil, who was arrested in connection to the Vasquez slaying, is still in jail but has not been charged.