When she grew up, she wanted to be a lawyer, her family said, to help other Mexicans immigrate to the United States to find better opportunities.
But Monday the Oxford High School sophomore’s life was cut unexpectedly short. Found unresponsive in a bathroom at the school, Linares was later pronounced dead at Regional Medical Center.
She was 15 years old. Officials still don’t know the cause of Linares’ death, and the Calhoun County coroner estimates that they will have to wait six months before they have a full report from the autopsy.
“We were shocked, very shocked,” Linares’ mother, Magnolia Yepez de Linares, said of her daughter’s death. Speaking through a translator, she said her daughter was not sick in the days leading up to her death, but had suffered from at least two fainting spells over the past couple of years.
Linares’ younger sister and friends translated for her parents during a Tuesday interview with a Star reporter, held at the Linares’ mobile home in Oxford. Neither of Linares’ parents, both originally from Mexico, speaks English.
Still, memories of Linares as a quiet but happy girl were conveyed easily as at least 30 family members and friends gathered in the home’s kitchen to remember her.
Linares and younger sister Magnolia, 12, shared a room; their full bed is covered with bright pink sheets. On the TV in their room, Linares used to watch her favorite TV shows — family staples like “Full House” and newer teen series like “iCarly.”
“She liked to pull pranks on me a lot of the time,” Magnolia remembered, smiling. “She would try to scare me at night … she said that most of the time, I got on her last nerve, but she still loved me.”
Other young cousins and friends laughed Tuesday evening as they recalled Linares prankster attitude, perhaps only matched by her love of boy band One Direction.
“She would mostly just talk about One Direction,” said 16-year-old Samantha Gonzalez of the school lunches she spent by Linares. “She just liked singing their songs.”
That much, at least, is apparent by the images that fill Linares’ profile backgrounds on Twitter and Facebook; both feature grinning shots of the group that sings the hit “What Makes You Beautiful.”
Gonzalez and Oxford senior David Sanchez, also a family friend, said they were both at school Monday afternoon when word began to circulate something had happened to Linares.
Students were changing classes, between sixth and seventh periods, Sanchez said, when school officials made students go back inside their classrooms.
“Something had happened, but we didn’t know what it was,” the 17-year-old boy said. “At the beginning of 7th period, the teachers began telling us that someone had fainted. But nobody knew that she had died.”
Roy Bennett, student services coordinator for Oxford High, wrote in a press release emailed to The Star that all students and faculty were told this morning about Linares’ death.
He said she had experienced a medical emergency in the presence of another student in the restroom during a class change.
“A faculty member and the school nurse responded immediately,” Bennett said. “Oxford Police and the Oxford Fire Department’s first responders were on scene within minutes and the student was transported by Oxford Emergency Medical Service personnel to the hospital.”
Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown originally thought a preliminary report from the autopsy Tuesday evening would reveal why Linares died. But he later amended those expectations, saying that state forensic investigators have so far been unable to determine the girl’s cause of death.
“It could take up to six months,” Brown said. “That’s how slow it is at the state level.”
Linares’ parents said she had been taken to the hospital twice for fainting spells in recent years; the last episode happened in September 2011, her mother said.
“The two times that she went to the hospital, they said that they could not find anything wrong,” Linares’ mother said through her daughter Magnolia.
Framed pictures of Linares rested on a small table in the corner across from where her sister and mother stood Tuesday evening. One of the photos showed a grinning head shot of the girl; the other was a picture of her in costume, at a parade in Oaxaca, Mexico.
“She liked living here, and she liked living in Mexico,” Magnolia said. The family moved to the states seven years ago, when both girls were young.
Linares’ mother works now at Golden Corral in Oxford; her father has a job in construction.
Family friends Kenia Sanchez and Karen Hernandez said Linares used to come visit them by herself in the afternoons.
At Sanchez’ Oxford shop, a Mexican convenience store called La Pasadita, Linares loved to buy and eat takis, a type of corn tortilla chip.
When Linares stayed at Hernandez’ house, she often played with the woman’s then-6-month-old son.
“She was real sweet, not real loud,” Hernandez said. “She smiled all the time.”
Many Oxford students showed up to school in purple Tuesday to commemorate Linares with her favorite color. Both Gonzalez and David Sanchez wore it at the family gathering that evening.
Officials with the school, police department and coroner’s office all declined to release Linares’ identity Tuesday, citing concerns about her age.
Bennett, the school spokesman, acknowledged that professionals remained at the school all day to help students and staff deal with their grief.
“Counselors will be available to students and teachers throughout this day and the remainder of the week,” Bennett wrote in his press release, “And one counselor will be dedicated to those classes which have suffered this unexpected loss.”
It was hard to be in school Tuesday, Gonzalez said, knowing that her friend had died.
“I just talked to my friends to try to get over the fact that she has left,” the Oxford 10th-grader said.
If he could talk to his oldest daughter one more time, Tiureno Linares said, he would tell her “that we loved her very much.”
Family members Tuesday were still in the midst of planning funeral arrangements.
Assistant Metro Editor Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Csteele_star. Star Staff Writer Patrick McCreless contributed to this report.
Staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @CSteele_star.
Star Staff Writer Patrick McCreless contributed to this report.