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04. She Was My Protector

She was a mother of six. She was addicted to drugs. She lived in a seedy motel on the wrong side of town. When Jamie Osuna killed Yvette Peña, his crime shaped the way her life would be remembered. But for the first time, Yvette’s family is telling her entire story. One that was tangled in tragedy long before she ever crossed paths with the man who would take her life.

She was the mother of six. She was a Sunday school teacher and a beloved big sister. A protector.

But Yvette Peña’s adult life was overshadowed by childhood tragedy.

She struggled with it every day.

When Jamie Osuna killed Peña, his crime shaped the way her life would be remembered – until now.

Her sister sat down with KGET reporter Olivia LaVoice for an hours-long interview, spanning decades of memories.

The sister, Danielle, remembered how a teenage Yvette put in extra hours at work to make sure her little sister had whatever she needed. As most younger siblings do, Danielle looked up to her older sister. 

But behind her brilliant smile, Yvette was keeping a secret.

For years, she quietly endured horrors that no child should ever face. As an adult, she’d continue to fight the stranglehold of childhood trauma, again and again, until it was too late. 

Yvette’s eldest daughter, Melyssa, says her mother should have been at her graduation. Yvette should have met her grandson. There is so much that Osuna took from their family and left heartache in its place.

This episode isn’t about Osuna. It’s about how Yvette’s life was tangled in tragedy long before she ever crossed paths with the man who would take her life.

Young Yvette Peña

As a child, Yvette endured horrors that no child should have to face. She believed she was doing it all to protect her baby sister. She is 10 years old in this photo, the age the abuse began.

Danielle, Yvette and her son

Yvette and her younger sister Danielle were 10 years apart, but the sisters were close. Danielle remembers one year, Yvette worked extra hours at her job to afford a toy that Danielle wanted for Christmas. The sisters are pictured here with Yvette’s eldest son.

Yvette smiling

KGET was provided multiple photos of Yvette for this investigation. In most, she has closed smile, but not this one.

Yvette and her eldest son

Family members say that for most of Yvette’s life, she felt that being a mother was all she had in this world. It was her identity. She’s pictured here with her eldest son.

Yvette and baby cousin

“My sister put me to bed,” Danielle recalls of Yvette. “She bathed me. She cooked for me. She took care of me. I don’t even remember my mom. It was just me and my sister.” Yvette is pictured here holding her baby cousin.

Timeline


1975

  • May 15 – Yvette Peña is born

1980s

  • 1985 – Peña's younger sister Danielle is born.
  • Jan. 8, '87 – Danielle and Yvette's mother's boyfriend is sentenced to three years behind bars for lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14.
  • May 2, '88 – Danielle and Yvette's mother's boyfriend released from prison

1990s

  • 1991/1992 – Yvette gives birth to her first child.

2004

  • 2004 – Yvette begins to use meth, loses custody of her children.

2011

  • February – Yvette is arrested for possession of a controlled substance. She gives birth to her sixth child in jail. Charges are dropped a few weeks later, according to court documents.
  • Spring – Yvette moves into the El Morocco Motel.
  • Nov. 13 – A maintenance worker finds the mutilated body of Yvette Peña inside a room at the El Morocco Motel.
  • Nov. 18 – Police arrest Osuna in Peña's death. He is charged with first-degree murder. In an interview with police, Osuna denies killing Peña but said he is a violent person with violent tendencies.

2017

  • March 28 – More than five years after his arrest, Osuna pleads guilty to murder and other charges in the killing of Peña.
  • May 15 – Osuna is sentenced to life without parole during a hearing where he smirks, rolls his eyes and mocks Peña's family members as they describe the pain of their loss.