A teen’s body has been found after two coaches he was last seen with died in an apparent murder-suicide in Hermiston, Oregon. Hermiston is a city in north central Oregon, near the Washington state border. The town only boasts a population of about 17,500. The local high school has been known for its wrestling success over the past decade.
The body of Kenneth Valdez, 45, was found in a bedroom of his Hermiston home on Thursday morning. The body of Jason Huston, a volunteer wrestling coach who worked alongside Valdez, was also found dead in the bedroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police also found a 35-year-old woman in the same bedroom as the bodies of the two coaches. She had been shot and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Authorities have not released her name, but have said that she’s the teen’s mother. Her son, 14-year-old James “JJ” Hurtado, was found dead in a remote area west of the town on Thursday night, says a report from Fox News. His death was also found to be caused by a gunshot wound.
The homicide investigation is being handled by the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Terry Rowan said they haven’t yet found a motive for the murders and that he “would hate to even speculate.” The boy had been missing since Thursday morning, and had been been designated “missing and endangered,” according to The Oregonian. Police have said that Huston had picked him up at 10 a.m. that morning to play disc golf at a local park. The teen’s body was found in a rugged, wooded area on Thursday night after 8 p.m. near some farmland along the Umatilla River, according to Rowan.
As far as the timeline of the murders is concerned, the shootings happened at about 11:15 a.m., approximately an hour after Huston picked up the teen boy. Once the teen’s body was found, investigators were able to piece together more of their investigation. They are not currently looking for any other suspects now that they have found the teen’s body. The teen’s mother, who was also found at the scene of the coaches’ shootings, gave a detailed statement to police, said Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston. A detective was doing some follow-up questioning at the hospital on Friday. Edmiston said Huston was a “father-like figure” to the boy.
“The three parties in the house all knew each other, and there were relationships between all three of them involved. Clearly this was a selfish choice that was made. All of us are just numb that he chose to do what he did.”
Jason Huston was found to have a notable criminal past. In December of 2009, he was arrested on charges of menacing and unlawful possession of a firearm. He pleaded no contest to the gun crime and ultimately the menacing charge was dropped. As a result of the charges, he was sentenced to a year’s probation and 20 hours of community service.
The teen, “JJ” Hurtado, was going to be starting his freshman year at Hermiston High on August 29, said Maria Duron, a district spokeswoman. He was involved in not only wrestling, but also cross country. The school was known for its wrestling program; in fact, it was found that both Valdez and Huston had wrestled for the team when they attended as students. In 2013, Valdez became a volunteer coach for the team and Huston joined him in that role a year later, according to Duron.
“These gentleman grew up in the wrestling program, so they’ve been in the community for a long time.”
School counselors, as well as psychologists, were available at the school on Friday to help grief-stricken students and staff members. Duron spoke further on behalf of the district in a news release on Friday morning.
“Today is a sad day. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, coaches, staff, friends, classmates, and others that are affected by this tragic loss.”
The teen’s body being found so soon after the murder-suicide of the two coaches, along with the statement of the teen’s mother, will help police with their investigation.
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