Drained from grieving and busy with preparations for her teenage son Joseph's funeral, Jennifer Oropesa nevertheless took some comfort Thursday in the news that police had arrested a suspect in connection with his death.
"This won't bring Joseph back, but this guy doesn't deserve to see the light of day and now justice can be served and he's not out there to hurt anybody," Oropesa said in an interview at her East Elk Grove home.
Police , Wednesday night in rural Stanislaus County and booked him on charges of murder, carjacking and robbery in connection with of 19-year-old Joseph Oropesa in the parking lot on Elk Grove Florin Rd. Detectives said they still haven't established a motive for the killing.
Jennifer Oropesa said her son's friends had told her he and Hays knew each other, but were not friends. "They're just kids, so there are a lot of rumors flying around," she said.
Her son was fun-loving and physically active, she said—a BMX bike rider who liked a challenge and had been suspended from school for fighting in the past, but was not the type to pull a weapon.
"I don't know what was going on [the night of the shooting], if they were up to no good, but Joseph wasn't armed," she said. "He was someone who would never back down, but he's only used his fists."
Her husband, Fred Oropesa, said he didn't understand what would cause anyone to shoot his son in the face and then drive off in the 1992 Ford Explorer Joseph had been driving, as police said Hays had done. "How brutal is that?" he asked, noting that the car was old and hardly fancy enough to be a motive for murder.
He said his "daredevil" son had started to take on more responsibility in the months before he was killed, getting a job and moving into an apartment with his girlfriend and their infant son.
But he still called his mother all the time, his parents said.
"He'd call me more than anybody else," said Jennifer Oropesa. "I don't know if people's kids ever call them so much. He was a dad but he was still a teenager. He had not grown up yet."
Those regular phone conversations with her son, she said, may be what she'll miss the most.
The family will hold a memorial service for Oropesa Friday at 10:00 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 8925 Vintage Park Drive in Sacramento.