Two Whitewater High School students whose parents were killed one morning in late January have found support in their adoptive hometown from places they didn’t expect.

Since the Jan. 31 incident, which police suspect was a murder-suicide, the Whitewater community has leaped into action, raising thousands of dollars to help the girls with funeral arrangements and emergency expenses.

Pay It Forward, a local group that meets once a month to pick a cause to support anonymously, has led the effort.

“It’s really powerful that our community comes together in those times of need,” said Kim Simes, a member of Pay It Forward. “Recognizing where we’re at and being in a position to help is a great feeling.”

The group helped raise more than $3,000 in a few days. The Whitewater School District also set up an emergency fund to support the girls so they can keep attending school locally, said Lanora Heim, director of pupil services.

The girls, ages 16 and 14, have said their greatest wish is to raise enough money for funeral arrangements and to send their parents’ remains to Mexico, Heim said. The girls wrote their parents’ obituaries on their own.

“We’ve been respecting their wishes all along the way,” Heim said.

Heim said Maribel Yessenia Ruiz Flores and Silvestre Ramirez Linares will be buried in Morelos, Mexico, the city where they were born and raised before immigrating to the United States with their children.

Ruiz Flores and Ramirez Linares, both 36, died Jan. 31 in what Fort Atkinson police Capt. Jeff Davis said was a suspected murder-suicide.

“What happened is a horrible tragedy,” Simes said. “The reality is that it happens all the time.”

Shooting under investigation

Ramirez Linares and Ruiz Flores had been together for about 18 years but were not married.

On the morning of Jan. 31, Ramirez Linares pursued Ruiz Flores’ vehicle to Fort Atkinson as she was driving a male co-worker home after work, Davis said.

The two cars stopped at an apartment building at 114 S. Third St. West in Fort Atkinson, Davis said. Ramirez Linares approached the other car, entered through the front passenger-side door, and “he essentially crawled over the passenger and shot her (Ruiz Flores),” he said.

Ruiz Flores’ car had been in the drive setting when she was shot. After the gunshot, the car accelerated into the garage of the apartment building, Davis said.

Ramirez Linares was dragged by the moving vehicle as it smashed through the garage door and slammed into the back wall of the garage, he said.

The male passenger in Ruiz Flores’ car was the only direct witness interviewed at the scene. Several residents told police they heard the crash.

Davis said police tried to find Ramirez Linares throughout the afternoon of Jan. 31. They later found his body inside a parked car in the town of Cold Spring.

He said authorities continue to investigate Ramirez Linares’ death. The male passenger in Ruiz Flores’ car does not face any criminal charges.

District embraces teens

Whitewater School District social workers have met regularly with the couple’s two daughters, Heim said. Because both are younger than 18, they aren’t allowed to live independently without a legal guardian. Their nearest relatives are in Chicago, and other relatives live in California and Mexico.

Several family members have offered to take them in, but Whitewater and Walworth County officials are trying to help them stay in Whitewater, Heim said.

Foster care is one option, she said, but the need for foster parents is dire. Forty-seven children are in foster care in the Whitewater School District.

“It’s a huge need, and not just for these two young women in a time of tragedy,” Heim said. “There’s a desperate need.”

The girls attended classes the day after their parents died, and they haven’t missed a single day since, Heim said. They took a few half days off to plan funeral arrangements, she said.

“They’re extremely high-achieving students,” she said. “Brilliant young minds. They have a strong network of teachers and friends.”

Heim said the teens belong to the National Honor Society, which made a large donation and has been “tremendously supportive.”

Aside from donations, cards and kindness are appreciated, Heim said.

“They are surprised that even people who don’t know them care about them,” she said.

Parents with passion

Obituaries for the couple, posted Feb. 4 on the Whitewater Banner website, describe two people who were dedicated to their family.

Maribel Yessenia Ruiz Flores graduated as valedictorian and medical secretary of her high school Class of 1998.

She worked for Whitewater Greenhouse on County U north of Whitewater, but she also was an active parent who liked reading and spending time with her family. She attended school events often and cultivated a garden at home, the obituary said.

She always wanted to make others smile, the obituary said.

Silvestre Ramirez Linares came to the U.S. with his partner and children to live the American dream, according to his obituary.

A working man, he was passionate about providing for his family and loved snowmobiling, soccer and classic cars.

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