Authorities in Albuquerque, New Mexico have ruled the deaths of Ursula “Tammy” Kokotkiewicz and her husband Jacob a murder-suicide.
The couple, from Flower Mound, Texas, were found dead inside their pickup truck June 29 when an officer checked on the stopped vehicle, which was parked on Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque.
The deaths of Ursula, 32, and Jacob, 31, had been under investigation since they were found deceased on the road. Police didn’t say they knew a motive in the murder-suicide or who was the one who pulled the trigger, but the scene indicates that it may have been Jacob who did so.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jacob Was Found in the Vehicle with a Gun on His Lap
When a State Police officer found their bodies in the car, Jacob had a 9mm hangun located between his legs, police said in a statement.
The officer found the couples’ bodies after stopping to perform a welfare check on them. Their vehicle was parked on the shoulder of the road and had the engine still running. The officer located the couple after directing traffic because of an unrelated accident nearby when a tractor-trailer carrying radioactive waste crashed.
The statement also said that there was no evidence there would have been anybody else involved in the killing, and added that authorities would look through electronic devices to determine a potential motive.
The evidence at the scene and on the devices led police to determine that the deaths were the result of a murder-suicide.
2. Tammy Was an English Teacher in the Dallas Area
The couple were from Flower Mound, Texas, about 30 miles northwest of Dallas.
Tammy is originally from Trinidad and studied education in Canada. She attended the University of Toronto where she studied at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She graduated from the school in 2013 and became registered to teach in the province in September 2013, the Toronto Star reported.
A brochure from the 2013 commencement ceremony said she went by her maiden name, which was James. It also said that she was the recipient of an award from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
According to her Facebook page, she was an English teacher in the Dallas Independent School District at North Dallas High School, though its currently unknown how long she had been employed there. A majority of her students referred to her simply as “Ms. K.”
3. Jacob Was a Deputy Sheriff & Assisted 2 People After a Concert Stage Collapse in 2011
Jacob is a former specialist of the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade with the Indiana National Guard and also previously served in the Army Infantry.
According to a 2012 article by Indianapolis’ NUVO, he became a deputy sheriff and worked in Indianapolis sometime in 2010.
In January 2013, he was awarded for heroic actions he took two years prior when over 40 people were injured and seven people were killed after a concert stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Jacob received the Indiana Distinguished Service Cross in Shelbyville for applying a tourniquet on a wounded child and performing CPR on an unconscious victim of the horrific scene.
“I wasn’t expecting anything, it was just the right thing to do,” he said after receiving his award.
4. The Couple Had Been Visiting National Parks
Social media posts indicate that the couple were traveling around the southwest visiting National Parks. Prior to traveling to New Mexico, they were in Utah.
Tammy’s final post to her Instagram account was on June 27 at Zion National Park in an area called Angel’s Landing. Her body was found alongside her husband’s two days later almost 500 miles away.
The caption on the photos said: “The glorious Angel’s Landing in Zion NP. Strenuous but always worth the endeavor! #angelslanding #zionnationalpark #hiking #dontslip.”
In a post June 24, at Recapture Reservoir, Utah, she wrote with a picture of a scenic horizon: “To me, the journey matters as much as the destination. Savor the moments and enjoy life’s detours.”
In a comment on the photo, she said she and her husband were “mostly trying to see the best parts of the states.” She said that she couldn’t “stay in one place for too long.”
5. Tributes Poured in Online Remembering ‘Ms. K’
When new of her death hit, tributes poured in from students — current and former — that were shocked to hear she had died.
“I can’t believe Ms. K is gone still,” one user wrote on an Instagram comment on one of her photos. “Looking at her pictures makes it seem so unreal, especially because I had just talked to her before she left.”
Another Instagram user wrote in a comment: “My heart breaks…it will not be the same to look across the hall and not see you there in August.”
Another former student was in disbelief, saying: “I can’t believe Ms K is gone. I should have gotten a picture, a hug or something, and I didn’t because I expected to see her again.”
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