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Piute High student shot and killed; 17-year-old boy arrested

Piute High student shot and killed; 17-year-old boy arrested
Photo by Biel Morro / Unsplash

On Sunday night, tragedy struck the small town of Piute County when a 16-year-old high school student was shot and killed. Jacqueline Nunez, a sophomore at Piute High School, was found dead near a dirt road, just four miles north of Circleville. The Piute County Sheriff's Office received a report of shots fired on Doc Springs Road just before 10 p.m. Deputies issued an attempt-to-locate bulletin to deputies and nearby agencies to look for a blue Ford Ranger, which led them on a high-speed chase that ended near Salina, where a 17-year-old boy was arrested without further incident. The boy has since been charged with aggravated murder in 6th District Juvenile Court, but it is still unclear whether his case will be moved into the adult system.

According to Jacqueline's older sister, Mayuni, the suspect was Jacqueline's boyfriend, and he never showed any signs of aggression towards her sister. "We thought he was a good guy. But guess appearances lie, because we all thought he was a good kid," Mayuni Nunez said. "She never reached out for help, so I'm not sure if we could have helped her or if there was anything we could have done."

The tragedy has left the community in shock and grief. The school district superintendent, Koby Willis, expressed that "there is a lot of pain, a lot of grief." The Piute Sheriff, Marty Gleave, said his county is "devastated." "We are a small county, and everyone knows this victim and her family," he said in a statement. "Murders don't happen where we live and so, as you can appreciate, everyone from Piute High School students, faculty and staff to friends and neighbors (are) in shock and reeling from this tragedy."

Jacqueline Nunez was a beloved member of the community who loved volleyball, basketball, softball, cheerleading, and enjoying life to the fullest. Her family is devastated by her loss, and her sister tearfully encourages everyone to spend quality time with their family members "because really, at the end of the day, that's what matters." On social media, relatives posted messages of tribute to Jacqueline, expressing their sadness and "numbness" over her death.

Circleville resident Bailey Dalton, who does not know the Nunez family well, called the Circleville branch of the State Bank of Southern Utah to set up an account that people could donate to on behalf of Jacqueline. However, she found out that someone else was already setting up an account at the Gunnison branch to help pay for funeral and other expenses. The Nunez family has lived in town for a very long time, and Dalton said it's a "very, very sad day for everyone in town. It feels very heavy."

The Piute School District issued a statement saying their hearts and thoughts are with the Nunez family. They also notified parents and students that counselors would be available at school all week for those who needed to talk, but if parents chose to keep their children at home on Monday, their absences would be excused.

The tragic death of Jacqueline Nunez is a reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing every moment with our loved ones. It is also a wake-up call for communities to take action to prevent senseless acts of violence like this from happening again. Our hearts go out to the Nunez family and the entire Piute County community during this difficult time.