A missing teen boy was killed in a remote area before Thursday’s suspected murder-suicide involving two volunteer high school coaches.
James “JJ” Hurtado, 14, of Hermiston, was discovered missing after police responded to reports of a shooting that involved his mother, Andria Bye, 35, at a house in Hermiston, officials said.
The teen’s body was found shortly after 8 p.m. in a remote, rugged area outside of town, according to a police news release.
Hurtado was last seen about 10 a.m. with Jason E. Huston, 45, of Hermiston, who said he was taking him to play Frisbee golf at McKay Park in Umatilla, said Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston.
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About an hour later, police discovered Huston’s body, along with the body of Kenneth E. Valdez, at Valdez’s house at 130 N.W. 11th St. Huston apparently shot Valdez and Bye, then himself.
Huston had a former relationship with Bye, and Valdez was his “lifelong friend,” Edmiston said.
Valdez was found dead in the same bedroom where Bye was wounded. She was taken to a nearby hospital for her injuries and spoke with police.
Oregon State Police detectives helping with the investigation found Hurtado’s body west of Hermiston near the Umatilla River, Edmiston said.
Huston was like a “fatherlike figure” to Hurtado, Edmiston added.
“This event is so horrific, so selfish,” Edmiston said. “It’s very difficult to make sense of it.”
Huston and Valdez were assistant coaches at Hermiston High School, according to the school district. Hurtado was about to begin his freshman year and expected to participate in wrestling and cross country.
Rod Bragato, a retired wrestling coach and teacher, remembers coaching Huston and Valdez at the high school. He described the two as “good friends.”
“They both had a real positive influence in school,” Bragato said.
Huston had also served time as a Marine in the Gulf War, but didn’t seem like himself when he returned, Bragato said.
Bragato never saw Huston lash out at any students, staff or parents while volunteering as an assistant wrestling coach.
“He never had any incident at wrestling,” he said. “He was real gentle and personable.”
Edmiston said police were looking into Huston’s background.
“What we do know is he is a veteran,” he said. “We believe he has had some kind of diagnosis from the (veterans administration).”
The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office is taking the lead on the investigation of Hurtado’s death, because it took place in a rural area, Edmiston said.
The Hermiston School District planned to have counselors available at Hermiston High School for students and student/athletes who need to talk.
“Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family, students, coaches and others affected by this tragedy,” a school district news release said.
Umatilla County students are scheduled to return to class on Aug. 29, according to the district’s website.
Anyone with information is asked to call 541-966-3651.