NEW PORT RICHEY —
One of the young victims of Thursday’s attack inside of a Catherine Street home in New Port Richey has died.
Jenica Randazzo, 9, passed away from her injuries on Friday morning. Her uncle, Jason Rios is accused of attacking her, her 7-year-old sister, and killing his own mother.
“It’s unfortunate that her life was taken at such a young age and Jessica was never able to really prove herself,” said Sara Seymour, a friend of Jessica Rios.
Jessica Rios is the mother of all four children inside the home where the tragedy unfolded Thursday. Two other children inside the home were not injured.
Rios’ friend said she (Jessica) hasn’t had her kids for a while. Rios has a criminal record and her children had been in foster care.
“People make mistakes in life and make bad choices, but at the end of the day no matter what she loved her kids, no matter what unconditionally,” said Seymour.
Seymour said Rios was just getting her life together.
“She is soon to be married to the man that she’s with now, and he is a loving father,” she said.
One of Jenica’s foster mothers said what happened Thursday could have been avoided.
“There were red flags and now a little girl is dead,” said Ashley Rhodes-Courter.
Rhodes-Courter said she knew Jenica and her situation well.
“She was so smart and charismatic and she craved stability,” she said. “She fit into our family routine so beautifully.”
So perfectly, in fact, that Rhodes-Courter said Jenica begged her to adopt her, but the system wouldn’t allow it.
“I think her asking us that is going to haunt us forever,” she said.
Rhodes-Courter grew up in foster care herself and believes Jenica died because of the way the system works.
“Right now biology trumps everything and as was the case with Jenna that obviously it lead to her death,” Rhodes-Courter said in tears.
Rhodes-Courter hopes this is another case that leads to change so more lives can be saved.
The Department of Children and Families says they have had multiple encounters with the children’s parents prior to this incident. It says it will be investigating whether Jenica died from abuse.
Meanwhile, Jenica’s 7-year-old sister La’nyla remains hospitalized.
Jason Rios now faces two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. He remains hospitalized. Deputies said his wounds were self-inflicted.
Deputies said Rios lived with his parents and their grandchildren at the Catherine Street home.