Remembering the victims: Connie Koontz

Connie Koontz.
Connie Koontz.(KOLO)
Published: Feb. 1, 2019 at 6:39 PM PST
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The deaths of all four victims in

left its mark on all our communities.

For some of us the loss was personal. Each left longtime friends and family members. Madison Koontz-Winkelman lost a mother.

"She was my best friend," the 21-year-old says of her mother, Connie Koontz. "She was my world."

Family pictures tell her story better than we can, introducing us to a warm, fun-loving, engaging woman.

"Young at heart," says her niece, Sarah Sills. "Always said she never wanted to grow up. You just laughed all the time. She just always lifted everybody's spirit."

She was close to her family, the cool mom in Madison's circle of friends.

"She was the mama bear to all my friends," says Madison. "All my friends considered her their second mom."

She was the neighbor with a friendly greeting, even the helpful face at the WalMart customer service counter.

"We met one guy," says Sills. "He would only come in and work with her in customer service. He would always ask for her specifically because she was helpful and generous and laughed. She even laughed with customers."

The family says, in fact, they never knew how many people she had touched.

"Yeah. I didn't realize how many people she impacted," says Madison.

"She never boasted about things," adds Sarah.."She just naturally cared about people."

And they and the community are still trying to understand what has happened. She was the unlikeliest of victims.

"She was the sweetest woman in the world," says Madison. "She always had something nice to say about somebody, even if she didn't know them."

Her cousin agrees.

"That light that she provided to people. It's gone."

Connie Koontz' death has also left her daughter with some unexpected bills. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help and donations are being gathered along with buttons bearing her likeness at the Gardnerville WalMart where she worked.

Wilber Martinez-Guzman has been charged with murder for the death of Koontz, plus Sophia Renken of Gardnerville and Gerald and Sharon David of Reno.