FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Yessica Guerrero Escobedo and Jose Luis Escobedo were high school sweethearts, a relative said, who fell in love and married. Recently, they packed up their two children and left their Texas home, headed for Florida in search of a new life.
"Everybody loves them. They would do anything for anybody. There's not enough words — they were just funny, caring, very lovely people," said Lisa Salazar, a relative in Brownsville, Texas.
On Saturday, authorities were trying to figure out how they were fatally shot along Florida's Turnpike in Port St. Lucie, about 100 miles north of Miami. The body of Yessica Guerrero Escobedo, 25, was found Friday clutching her two sons in an apparent effort to protect them. Her husband, who was to turn 29 on Saturday, was found nearby.
Salazar said the couple, married for three years, didn't have any enemies. She showed photos of the family, including the 3- and 4-year-old sons, at a news conference. They had hoped to return to Brownsville for Christmas, she said.
Investigators were watching 480 hours of surveillance tapes from toll booths along the turnpike hoping to spot any clues to lead to the suspects. Bullets found at the scene also were being analyzed to see if the same kind had been used in any other crimes.
Investigators believe the Escobedos' vehicle, a 1998 four-door Jeep Cherokee, had pulled to the side of highway before someone else in the vehicle shot them and drove away sometime between 1:30 and 3 a.m. Authorities were searching for the vehicle Saturday, Sheriff Ken Mascara said.
A motive for the shootings was not yet known. Authorities said the victims and the shooter may have known each other, and investigators were not approaching the crime as a carjacking.
A search warrant was issued for the family's home in Greenacres in Palm Beach County, where the family had moved in June from the Brownsville, Texas, area.
Their white stucco single-story house looked Saturday as though the family was still settling in to their new home — the living room was devoid of furniture, except for a bean bag chair on the white tile floor. A handwritten note taped to the doorbell read, "Knock!! Door bell doesn't work."
Neighbors said they didn't know the family well.
"He waved to me once, that's about all," said Ron Vendetti, 83, who lives across the street.
Patrick Center, 25, who lives next door, said the husband once came over to introduce himself.
"Really nice guy," Center said.
Mascara said Friday the mother and father suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Formal autopsy results were not expected until Monday, according to the medical examiner's office.
Seven other law enforcement agencies around the country were involved in the investigation, Mascara said. Investigators had received about 200 phone calls offering tips, the sheriff said.