At 22, Holly Mathews had her life figured out.
She was in her senior year of college, studying to be an arborist while working two jobs. Two weeks ago, she became engaged and was choosing bridesmaids.
“Her time was precious,” said her mom Sharyl Mathews, days after her daughter was gunned down during a Halloween party where 10 other people were shot early Sunday. “It’s hard to breathe. My daughter was my whole world.”
Mathews had gone out with a friend to a house party in Frankfort. They left around midnight and, at the suggestion of the friend, stopped by another party in Joliet Township.
“They felt a bad vibe and were there for only 10 minutes,” Sharyl Mathews said.
Before they could leave, two gunmen opened fire from an elevated porch into the crowd of around 200 people in the backyard of a home in the 1000 block of East Jackson Street.
Mathews was shot in the ribs and was pronounced dead in the yard. A man, also 22, was killed. Nine other people were hospitalized, and one remains in critical condition.
Sharyl Mathews said she fell to the ground when the sheriff’s office knocked on her door with the news. “We love her very much,” she said by phone Tuesday. “I don’t know how to go on without her.”
The other person who died was Jonathan Ceballos, remembered by family as “a great brother, friend and son.”
“I remember how much you used to love riding horses, going to Mexico, how we used to play soccer together all the time and how you always made people laugh,” his younger brother Carlos Ceballos wrote in an online fundraiser.
“I honestly can’t believe you were taken from us at such a young age,” he said in the post. “You didn’t deserve this.”
Interview requests left with Ceballos’ family were not returned.
Police had been called at least three times about noise at the party but had not tried to disperse the crowd. Police said the shooting appeared to be gang-related but offered no details.
No arrests have been made, though Mathews said police told her they are sifting through evidence. “I really hope they get these guys,” she said. “This isn’t right, this isn’t right at all.”
Late Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said detectives have interviewed 70 witnesses of the shooting and are seeking to talk with several more.
Detectives confirmed the party hosts were not gang-affiliated, and that Mathews and Ceballos “were merely innocent partygoers.”
A male shooting victim remains hospitalized in critical condition, while two others are still hospitalized and expected to survive, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Mathews recalled how sweet her daughter was to be around. “She was always smiling. She made friends with everyone. She was goofy and funny,” she said.
Her daughter was creative, and could paint, draw and construct mosaics. Mathews was very close to her 17-year-old sister and “best friend,” her mother said.
After a fire at the family home last year, Holly Mathews moved in with her partner. He proposed to her two weeks ago while they vacationed in Utah. Her boyfriend had helped her get a job at his workplace, a tree trimming tool manufacturer, and sparked her interest in being an arborist, her mother said.
She switched her major from nursing but continued working a second job as a nursing assistant at a rehab center.
“She was a workaholic,” her mother recalled. “She was on track to be successful. They were talking about buying their own house. And now it’s gone.”
Her fiancé, Adam Gregurich, said she never realized how much she did for other people.
“She was just such a great, genuine, loving, caring person who would literally put everybody else’s needs ahead of hers,” he said Wednesday.
During their Utah trip, they damaged their vehicle off-roading and ran into a television crew from one of their favorite shows, Dirt Every Day, Gregurich said.
They took a group photo and asked everyone to make a frown. “But when we saw the photo, everyone was frowning but she was smiling,” Gregurich said. “It shows how strong she was. To say she’ll be missed doesn’t even come close.”
Mathews’ funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at Fred C. Dames Funeral Home in Joliet.
An online fundraiser is collecting funeral funds for Mathews’ family.