The word reserved was spelled out on a pink sign taped to the chair Jessica Rodriguez once used to style hair.
It was a simple message from the staff at Creations Spa & Salon that Rodriguez’s memory and zest for life would live on at the Richland beauty parlor where she worked.
Colorful flowers decorated her work station. A trinket from her boyfriend with the phrase “I love you always” rested close by.
The mementos were sad reminders of the drive-by shooting Sunday that claimed the lives of Rodriguez, 29, and Eduardo Flores, 21. The victims were at Rodriguez’s family home on Satus Avenue in Toppenish after a wedding when shots rang out about 2:15 a.m.
Rodriguez died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle hours later. She leaves behind a 7-year-old daughter.
The teary-eyed Creations staff gathered Monday to remember Rodriguez, whom they described as hardworking, bubbly and above all a dedicated mother.
“She never had a bad word to say about anyone,” said Daya Cullier, salon owner, whose son was dating Rodriguez. “She was one of those people who makes you want to be a better person.”
There were less than 15 people gathered at the mobile home when the shooting happened, said Curt Ruggles, Toppenish police captain. It appears family members were leaving when the bullets were fired. Rodriguez was on the front porch.
A neighbor reported a car speeding from the scene after the shots were fired, possibly headed south on North Meyers Road.
Police did not say how many casings were found at the scene or what caliber of bullets were fired. An autopsy was completed on Rodriguez in King County on Monday, but the results may not be available until as late as next week, police said.
A documented gang member was apparently at the house, though police are searching for a motive and have not connected the shooting to gang tensions in the area, Ruggles said. Police are searching to find solid leads in the case.
“We don’t have a suspect description. We don’t have a vehicle description,” Ruggles told the Herald. “As far as the motive, we can speculate all we want, but we don’t really have a motive.”
Rodriguez, who grew up in Toppenish, was living in Kennewick with her daughter and boyfriend before she died, friends said. She worked for more than a year at Creations, where her loyal clients would drive long distances for her unique color jobs and friendly personality.
Cullier drove to Seattle with her son shortly after the shooting so they both could say goodbye to Rodriguez, who was unrecognizable in a hospital bed.
“It was painful. It was devastating,” Cullier said.
Rodriguez, who was also a Zumba instructor in Pasco, had talked about moving to the Tri-Cities to escape violence in Yakima County, Cullier said. She reportedly was at the wedding doing hair and makeup for a relative. She also sometimes returned to Toppenish for hair appointments.
Friends say Rodriguez was only concerned with providing her family with a better life, and was never mixed up in gangs and stayed far away from trouble.
Their friend, they say, was caught in the crossfire of a senseless act of violence.
“She was just honestly in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Staci Stowers, friend and co-worker. “My heart is broken. It’s absolutely broken.”
Once the pain starts to subside a little, Creations staff plans to honor their friend in some way.
But for now they are dealing with the shock of her death, while remembering all the positivity and humor she injected into the shop.
“There hasn’t been one of us it hasn’t affected,” Cullier said. “There’s not one of us that isn’t sad.”
A GoFundMe account has been set for Rodriguez’s family. To donate go to http://www.gofundme.com/a22jwdy8rg.
Anyone with information on the double murder is asked to call Toppenish police at 509-865-4355.