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September 22, 2014

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Rios family braces for more pain

For George and Denise Rios, the trauma of losing their daughter isn't nearly over.

"This is just the second chapter of a long road," George Rios said Thursday as he sat at the family's kitchen table with his youngest daughter, 18-year-old Daniella, and his wife, Denise. "First, we went through her missing. Now, her murder. Then we'll wait for the trial and go through the trial itself. We'll hear the gritty details of how she died."

They were notified a week ago that the body of a woman found in a shallow grave in Arizona is that of their daughter Ginger.

The wife of the owner of the Spy Craft store on Maryland Parkway led police to the grave near Tucson, 6 1/2 miles west of State Route 177 just off the Florence-Kelvin Highway, a dirt road linking Florence to Kearny City.

On May 10, Pinal County Sheriff's Department deputies found the body of another female, 15 to 20 years old, who was still unidentified today.

Craig Jacobsen, who went by John Flowers and owns the Spy Craft, is also a suspect in that murder, said Detective Ron Pugliese of the sheriff's department.

Jacobsen was arrested in Los Angeles on Tuesday. He was still in custody today at Los Angeles County Jail, awaiting extradition to Tampa, Fla., for a parole violation on counterfeiting charges.

A week ago, Cheryle Ciccone, Jacobsen's wife of two years, led deputies to a shallow grave near the one uncovered May 10.

Ciccone turned in her husband because she feared for her life, according to an affidavit supporting Jacobsen's arrest.

Ciccone said her husband told her Rios "got in his face" and that's when he hit her.

She told U.S. Customs agents that she had seen the body and she "checked her body for vital signs and found none."

An employee, at Jacobsen's request, bought large plastic garbage bags and Jacobsen locked himself in the back of the store, according to the affidavit. There was bleach all over the floor when an employee later went to the back of the store. Jacobsen explained that he was cleaning up after his dog.

Ciccone said Rios' body was wrapped in the plastic bags and buried two days later in the Arizona desert.

Doug Stauffer, who works at the Sub Factory Sandwich shop next door to the Spy Craft store in Phoenix told the Tribune of Arizona that Jacobsen phoned his store 10 times on Saturday frantically looking for his wife. But she had already gone to the FBI and Customs agents, Stauffer told the newspaper.

"He was paging her and paging her," Stauffer said. "He said he was going to break every bone in her face so you can't recognize her. He didn't know where she was."

Toni Velikoff, who works in the same store, said Ciccone confided in them "and told us everything."

Ciccone told them she had left the Spy Craft store in Las Vegas on April 4 to run an errand. When she returned, she went to the back of the store and saw Ginger's body. She asked her husband what had happened, and he threatened to kill her if she talked, Stauffer told the Tribune.

Stauffer said Ciccone told him Jacobsen hit Ginger Rios with an uppercut to her nose, killing her instantly.

When Ginger Rios went into the Spy Craft, her husband, 35-year-old Mark Hollinger, sat outside in his car while she ran in to get a book on fixing credit reports. She and her husband had moved into a house the day before on a lease-to-own plan and wanted to clear their credit so they'd be approved for a loan, he said.

About 15 minutes later, Hollinger walked into the store, didn't see his wife, and asked where she was. He was told she had left, so he walked around the shopping center looking for her, returning a few minutes later. He asked the store clerk and owner again if they remembered seeing his wife. They repeated what they had said earlier.

Hollinger left and returned a third time. That's when Jacobsen "got irritated with me" and locked the door to the store, he said. He left and called his in-laws. "I thought, 'Ginger probably walked to another store and she'll be back,'" he said.

What hurts most for George Rios and his son-in-law is that they went back to the Spy Craft store that night hoping to view the store's surveillance videotape to see Ginger's activities before she disappeared. They weren't suspicious of Jacobsen; they were seeking his help, George Rios said.

"I spoke to him on the phone that night," he said. "Then I spoke to him face to face. We went down to the store. They were outside. I saw (Jacobsen's) van, his baby. His wife was there. They looked like a typical family. If I were to conjecture, Ginger was probably in the van.

"My heart stops to think that this person could have four hours earlier murdered my girl and stood face to face with her father. It's horrendous to think that a person could do that."

Hollinger he said he feels terrible because he could have gone with her instead of waiting in the car.

"I carry a lot of guilt," he said. "If I had gone to the store with her, would I have been killed too? Could I have saved her? Or was my role in this that I was the one who would connect the police with the Spy Craft store?

"Now I'm thinking that Ginger's body could have been in that van. To think that George and I met with that guy that night ... it's pathetic."

He said Jacobsen has ruined his life.

"I've lost everything," he said. "I lost my job. I lost my brand-new house. I held out for her. I wanted to believe that she was alive. I would give everything to just have my baby back. We had everything, and within a split second it was gone."

Denise Rios said Jacobsen has damaged her family beyond repair.

"He robbed us of Ginger and the beautiful person she was," she said. "She was always making other people happy. She would ask me, 'What's wrong?' and then hug me. I don't have that anymore."

George Rios said, "Our children are pieces of our lives. Ginger's gone. It's like losing an arm. You're not whole anymore. If you can't be safe in a store with the owner, where can you be safe?"

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