“Since we were children we have been really close,” Rocio Salazar Campos said in an interview this week, with the help of a translator. “He was a happy person. He was always smiling; he liked to dance and talk.”
Her brother’s body was found April 7 in the shallow waters of the Colorado River just north of Moab. Grand County Sheriff Steve White said last week that Campos died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
Three people have been arrested in connection with Gregorio Campos’ death. Charles Anthony Nelson and Brody Blu Kruckenberg, both 16, have been charged with first-degree felony murder and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. Kruckenberg’s mother, Corina Yardley, 44, is charges with two counts of obstruction of justice. The charges against all three were filed last week in 7th District Court in Moab. Nelson and Kruckenberg are charged as adults and, if convicted, could face up to life in prison.
Gregorio Campos, 33, known to friends as “Gollo,” leaves behind a wife and three sons, age 7, 11 and 13, who live in the state of Coahuila, in northeastern Mexico. He had lived in Moab for the past four years, working two jobs to help his family purchase a home and pay for his sons’ education.
“He was working construction in the morning and as a dishwasher in a restaurant in the afternoon,” Rocio Campos said. “He was a hard working guy.”
Family friend, Melva Cruz, who also lives in Moab, said those who knew Gregorio are now pulling together to help his survivors.
“He was the support of his family and now that he’s gone we have to help them,” Cruz said. She said she “never saw [Gregorio Campos] in trouble. I never knew him as a bad person.”
The staff of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center have been helping Rocio Campos and her family navigate the complicated paperwork required to eventually return Gregorio Campos’ body to Mexico for burial. The center also has arranged for free counseling for those who may feel fear or have difficulty coping because of the homicide.
“If they’ll contact us we can talk with them and make a referral,” said Rhiana Medina, director of the multicultural center, adding that Four Corners Behavioral Health and several private mental health counselors have offered their services.
News of the homicide has led to fear and concern among many in Moab’s Latino community, said Leticia Bentley, outreach director for the multicultural center. Those fears were heightened, in particular because of a comment Nelson allegedly made to the unnamed informant who provided information to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office regarding the homicide. The informant told sheriff’s investigators that Nelson said Campos “was an illegal so no one would miss him,” according to a probable cause statement released by the sheriff’s department last week.
Campos’ nephew, Jesus Herrera, said his uncle’s death is hard for many in the community.
“Just because we are from Mexico does not mean they have the right to kill us,” he said. “Our life has the same value as anybody else.”
Rocio Campos said the fact that those charged with the killing are teenagers makes her feel “pretty sad.”
“They are kids,” she said. “To think that these kids would have that bad feeling in their heart. We don’t understand why they would do something like this ... This is a human being with a family. We’re very saddened by this tragedy.”
She said she is confident in the U.S. court system and hopes justice will be done.
“I believe justice is going to be served and I believe in God. I hope that this tragedy never happens to anybody else, anywhere.”
The Utah Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet released the body because it is waiting for positive identification based on dental records, because of the condition of Campos’ body due to the length of time it was submerged in the river, according to Rocio Campos. She said she is certain the body is her brother because of specific tattoos Gregorio Campos had.
“It is very complicated to arrange to return a body to Mexico,” Bentley said. “It is also very expensive and we are trying to help them with that as well. And for the family, here and in Mexico, the waiting time is also very difficult.”
The family will have to pay approximately $4,000 to return Gregorio Campos’ remains to Mexico. About $1,000 has been raised by workers at Red Cliffs Lodge, who pooled their tip money for the family, Medina said.
Bentley said it would be easier and less expensive to return a person’s cremated ashes to Mexico, but the family’s religious and cultural practices do not allow cremation.
“The body must be there for the family to see, and must be at the church for the Mass,” she said. “That is the culture. Cremation is not really acceptable.”
A bank account has been opened at Zions Bank in Moab to help the family cover funeral and transportation costs. Contributions can be made to the Gregorio Salazar Campos donations account.