After almost a month of waiting and wondering, Jesse Valencia’s family met news of Steven Rios’ arrest Thursday with a mix of relief, sadness and grim determination.
Valencia’s mother, Linda Valencia of Perryville, Ky., said she was relieved that an arrest had finally been made.
“I hope it’s the right person because I don’t want just anybody,” she said. “I want the one that did it.”
Valencia said she would do anything in her power to make the trip from Kentucky to Missouri in the coming months.
“I will be there for every hearing and everything to do with this case,” she said. “If I have to hitchhike, I’ll be there.”
Jesse’s stepfather reiterated her resolve.
“I won’t be satisfied until they get a guilty verdict back,” Lupe Valencia said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Linda Valencia said she was recently fired from her job because she was “a nervous wreck,” and her supervisor told her she didn’t think she could handle working right now. She said she was also fired because reporters repeatedly called her on her cell phone and disrupted her work.
Valencia said she was appreciative of the fund that was set up by a bank in Perryville to collect transportation money for the Valencias but that the money collected would not be enough to cover future costs.
“I was trying to put my paycheck in there to save it so I could come back and forth,” she said. “Now I lost my job, so I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I will get there one way or another. There’s nothing in the world that’s going to stop me from coming.”
Jesse’s grandmother said the news brought her frayed nerves some relief, but she was already concerned that Rios might raise a defense of mental disease or defect.
“It gives us at least a sense that something’s being done,” Connie Baugh said. “If he’s the one that did it, we’re hoping that he’ll get his punishment.”
Linda Valencia said the grieving process has taken a toll on the family, especially Jesse’s two younger sisters, Rachel, 10, and Maria, 15. Valencia said she was exhausted and tasks like taking care of her son’s belongings have been overwhelming.
“It breaks my heart to look through his stuff,” she said. “I’ve only been able to do one box.”