News Column

Family mourns innocent woman killed by OPD officer's stray bullet at Vixen Bar

August 21, 2014

By Tiffany Walden, Orlando Sentinel



Aug. 21--Like many millennials, Maria loved partying and hanging out with her friends.

So she took a weekend girls trip to Orlando, visiting some of the theme parks before ending up at Vixen Bar in downtown Orlando sometime Monday night, family said.

The 22-year-old woman -- identified by police as Maria Fernanda Godinez but also known as Maria Castillo -- wouldn't make the return trip home to Cocoa with her friends.

She was hit by an Orlando officer's stray bullet about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday during a police struggle with a gun-wielding man identified as Kody Roach, 23, outside the bar on South Orange Avenue between Pine and Church streets.

She was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

She was born in Guatemala. But she grew up in Cocoa, according to her cousin Norma Godinez, 34.

Her death left her family and friends in shock.

"Until I see her body, I can't realize this is true," Norma Godinez said Wednesday. "We feel shock. I don't get it. I cannot believe what's going on."

She was described by her cousin as a happy person who was fun to be around.

"She is my family. What can I say?" she said. "She was a very good friend, very good cousin."

She grew up in Catarina, a town with about 3,000 residents on Guatemala's southwest border with Mexico, according to family members in Brevard County.

A cousin who did not give her name thinks the young woman may have attended high school in Brevard County and studied at a local college, but details were not immediately available.

Relatives gathered Wednesday to grieve at a family home in Sunrise Village, a mobile-home park off Clearlake Road in Cocoa.

A blue-and-white Guatemalan flag hung in one window and a multicolored blanket covered another window while two older women in traditional-style clothing tended to banana trees, cornstalks and a lime tree in the yard.

Family spokesman Henry Castillo said Maria's mother would not comment now but would speak later about her loss and the death of her daughter.

As people close to the young woman learned about her death, an outpouring of grief began on her Facebook page.

Distraught friends and relatives changed their profile photos to images of black ribbons, a symbol of remembrance or mourning.

One friend, Arielle Smith, 24, posted on the victim's page: "Why did this have to happen to you?"

She said it hurts to talk about her friend, but she was willing to talk via Facebook chat. Smith said they've been friends for four years.

"Maria was one of the greatest people I've ever met, a wonderful friend, and what happened to her is unfair," she said on Facebook.

Staff writer Henry Pierson Curtis contributed to this report. twalden@tribune.com or 407-420-5620

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(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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