A San Diego teenager said her mother’s violent death has given her a new will to live at a candlelight vigil to remember the woman police say was killed by her estranged husband and dropped off at a downtown police station.
Americus DeOrenday, 44, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Mirella Alas DeOrenday, 40.
More than 150 people attended a memorial Sunday at Hoover High School for the mother of five.
Mirella’s eldest child, 17-year-old Leslie, asked the crowd of friends and fellow church members to stay strong for her so she can stay strong for her younger siblings – a sister and twin boys.
The teenager said she had lost her will to live but now with her mother's death, she says she's found her purpose.
“I was getting ready to give up. Life was getting really hard for me. But now, I can’t and I thank my mom for it,” the teenager said.
Then she recalled the last moment she saw her mother alive.
When Americus dropped the children off at Mirella’s home on Sat., Sept. 21, Mirella went outside to briefly speak with her estranged husband.
“She said, ‘I'll be quick, I'll be right back. Take care of your brothers.’ That's exactly what I'm going to do – take care of my brothers,’”Leslie recalled.
After about 10 minutes, officials said Leslie grew worried and went outside to check on her parents, but Americus and Mirella were gone. The victim’s daughter called police and later filed a missing persons report.
Three days later, Americus flagged down detectives near the downtown headquarters, telling them his wife was dead and that her body was inside his Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Detectives say Mirella's body was on the floor of the truck and a garden hose ran from the exhaust into the rear window.
At an arraignment Thursday, Americus pleaded not guilty to charges that he strangled and killed his wife.
It was at that pretrial hearing that prosecutors described a turbulent relationship between Americus and Mirella. The couple had three children together. They married in 2004, but separated earlier this year.
Americus obtained a restraining order against Mirella and took primary custody of their children.
Prosecutors allege Americus used the children as “leverage,” controlling when and under what conditions Mirella could see them.
Mirella’s friend, Abby Chinnis, didn’t want to talk about the DeOrenday family’s life but she did talk about the woman who was her friend for many, many years.
“She was always happy, always smiling and her devotion and care was for her children,” she said.
Chinnis said the children were overwhelmed by the support of the community. She and other friends of the family were collecting donations for the funeral arrangements and for the children.
With the release of white balloons at the vigil, supporters sent the children a message of hope for strength and better times to come.
The five children are now staying with family. Funeral services will be Sunday at the San Diego Spanish Church in National City.
Chinnis said a memorial fund has been established to cover funeral costs and help Mirella's children. Those who wish to donate can do so through bank account No. 6474042337 at Wells Fargo bank.