Jessica Rekos (AP Photo / Courtesy of the Rekos Family)
"Jessica loved everything about horses," her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos said in a statement. "She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses, and writing stories about horses."
When she turned 10, they promised, she could have a horse of her own. For Christmas, she asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
The Rekoses described their daughter as "a creative, beautiful little girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane.
"She spent time writing in her journals, making up stories, and doing 'research' on orca whales — one of her passions after seeing the movie 'Free Willy' last year." Her dream of seeing a real orca was realized in October when she went to SeaWorld.
Jessica, first born in the family, "was our rock," the parents said. "She had an answer for everything, she didn't miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time." A thoughtful planner, she was "our little CEO."
"We cannot imagine our life without her. We are mourning her loss, sharing our beautiful memories we have of her, and trying to help her brother Travis understand why he can't play with his best friend," they said.
"We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are."
Funeral services are planned for Tuesday.
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