By Ronna Faaborg, Omar Waheed, Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register
Vivian Renee Flores, one of the two victims of the June 2 shooting outside an Ames church, was “full of energy and vivaciousness” and “was also driven, kind and giving,” says her obituary, posted Saturday.
In addition, the Iowa National Guard acknowledged in a news release that the alleged shooter and the other victim were members of the same Boone-based unit.
The obituary says a service for Flores, 21, will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Cornerstone Church. The shooting occurred in the parking lot of the church, where Flores and the other victim, Eden Mariah Montang, 22, both Iowa State University students, had gone for an evening student ministry event.
Flores’ obituary noted her Christian faith: “Her love of dancing, music, animals, children, and Iowa State University; Vivian would credit all these things to her personal relationship with her Lord Jesus Christ.”
A reception for friends of the family will precede the service at 10 a.m. at the church. Memorials may be made to the church at 56829 U.S. 30, Ames 50010, the obituary said.
No funeral plans had yet been posted for Montang. Schroeder Stark Welin Funeral Home in Boone said it was in charge of arrangements.
Story County sheriff officials said Johnathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, shot and killed Montang and Flores before turning the gun on himself.
Montang and Whitlatch had recently ended a relationship, the sheriff”s office said. Whitlach faced charges of third-degree harassment and impersonating a public official in connection with repeated phone calls he made to Massage Heights in Ames, Montang’s employer.
ISU professor says Flores had ‘a contagious smile’
Flores’ obituary said she was the daughter of Reyna Arvizo and was born May 30, 2001, in El Paso, Texas. A graduate of Valley High School in West Des Moines, she was a student in the animal science program at Iowa State and planned on studying veterinary medicine.
In a tribute message left on the website of Grandon Funeral and Cremation Care, which is handling the arrangements, an Iowa State professor praised her as “an outgoing and caring person with a contagious smile that can easily impress people around her.”
Jianqiang Zhang, an associate professor of veterinary medicine, wrote that Flores had been an undergraduate employee at the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Virology Section since August 2021 “and has also been a valued member in my research group.”
Montang lived in Boone and had attended Boone High School and studied American Sign Language at Iowa State, according to her Facebook page. ISU said she was a senior in the College of Life Sciences. She also studied at the Massage Therapy Training Institute, her Facebook page said.
Alleged shooter was sergeant; victim served in same Guard unit
The Iowa National Guard issued a news release saying Montang had served since August 2019 and was a mortuary affairs specialist with Detachment 1, Headquarters Support Company, 248th Aviation Support Battalion in Boone. It noted that Whitlatch was a sergeant in the same detachment, and that neither of the two was on active duty at the time of the shooting.
“We are devastated by this tragic news,” the release quoted Maj. Gen. Ben Correll, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, as saying. “Our hearts are with all who are impacted, including the victims’ families, Ames, Iowa State and Cornerstone Church communities, friends and fellow service members. While working to support those affected, we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as the investigation continues.”
Iowa State also issued a statement from President Wendy Wintersteen and other senior university leaders saying they were “heartbroken” by the deaths of Montang and Flores and offering counseling and other resources to students, faculty and staff.
The family of Flores did not respond to Des Moines Register requests for comment, and Elyse Montang, Eden Montang’s older sister, referred questions to the church. But KCCI reported that in a statement to the station, Montang’s family wrote: “Eden was unique and gifted in her ability to be both strong and tender, creative and conservative and was unmatched in her generosity and empathy.
“She was a daughter, sister, aunt and a dedicated Christian woman that loved learning about the love and wonders of our Heavenly Father.
“She was unrelenting in her values and strong sense of right and wrong. She was intellectually gifted, articulate and confident. In less (than) 20 minutes, she could do farm chores and write a poem all while drinking a glass of wine.
“She deeply loved her family and her beloved dog, Takoda. Eden was a beautiful garden that we were lucky enough to watch grow.”
KCCI also said it had received a statement from Flores’ family.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts our family honors the life of our vivacious Vivian,” the statement said. “Vivían was one of the good ones. A devout Christian, lover of music and dancing, beloved daughter, sister and friend. She was the life of the party. Strong willed and determined, ambitious and kind.
“A life cut short by one act of violence. Her story will not end there. As we navigate the difficult days ahead we are comforted in knowing she is dancing in Heaven and watching over us as we continue to shed light to the irreversible consequences that come from the lack of gun control in the nation we live in.”
Eden Montang’s father, Terry, attended a prayer service at Cornerstone on Friday, saying, “What I want everyone to know is that she walked the walk. She died for her faith. I’m proud to have been her father. I’m not sure what more there is to say than she is with the Lord.”