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‘Devastated’: Las Vegas shooting victims had been good friends

Updated February 26, 2024 - 8:16 pm

A man and a woman shot dead this past week knew each other as bartenders at a Dotty’s lounge, according to a relative of one of the victims.

Nicole Manning, 37, the niece of John Dorotiak Jr., said she viewed Ring camera video footage, obtained by a relative, showing Mark Michael Ford hiding for hours outside the Dotty’s in the 7000 block of North Hualapai Way where Dorotiak was shot.

Ford, 36, who also is suspected of shooting 36-year-old Jessica Russo on Feb. 20, was found dead Sunday in an apparent suicide after being sought by police in connection to the two shootings.

Russo and Dorotiak, 44, had worked together tending bar at Dotty’s for several years and “were good friends,” Manning said. “They had a friendship. I don’t think it was beyond that. I think he (Ford) had some jealousy about him.”

Ford had been released from state prison last year, and he and Russo knew each other as teenagers from high school and had reconnected, Manning said.

Dorotiak was identified Monday by the Clark County coroner’s office, which determined he died from multiple gunshot wounds.

The Metropolitan Police Department has said Ford shot and killed both Russo and Dorotiak.

Ford was paroled in February 2023 after serving 20 years of a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for second-degree murder with a deadly weapon in the stabbing death of a man in Las Vegas when Ford was 15, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.

‘Most kind, most fun uncle’

Dorotiak, Manning said, “was the most kind, most fun uncle, more like a big brother to me because we had only seven years separating us.”

“He had a huge work ethic,” she said. “He always worked two jobs, very sweet. He was a huge Chicago Bears fan. He was my favorite person. He’s always been an idol to me, which is why I decided to have a baby for him.”

Manning said that she agreed to serve as the surrogate mother of a child as a favor to Dorotiak and his wife.

She said she gave birth to the couple’s baby girl in October 2022, and the child is now 16 months old.

Members of Russo’s family could not be reached, but her niece Gianna Russo, and her mother, Laura Castelle, wrote about her on a fundraiser page on the GoFundMe website.

“On February 20, my aunt Jessica Russo didn’t pick her girls up from school,” wrote Gianna Russo wrote on the GoFundMe.

“In a frantic rush of emotion I watched her mother relentlessly, with the strength of her gut feeling pry her way into her daughter’s home. Upon entry my grandmother found her daughter deceased in what felt like a nightmare,” Gianna Russo wrote.

“With the guidance of a 911 operator I watched my grandmother Laura try to revive her only daughter from the most horrific scene,” she wrote. “My aunt Jessica’s death has been ruled a homicide. She left behind 2 daughters 11 and 7 years old. Her mother Laura is struggling in more ways than can be expressed. I am asking for help to support my grandma Laura at this time as she navigates burying her only daughter and adoption of her granddaughters.”

‘Devastated and heart broken’

Laura Castelle wrote on the GoFundMe that she is “devastated and heart broken” and gave thanks to “everyone for your kind and soothing words and prayers.”

“I just can’t believe I will never laugh with my only daughter my best friend in all the world! ” she wrote. “What will I do without her please someone tell me someone please tell me how to get thru this for my grandchildren who are broken, shocked and affected for the rest of their lives!”

As of Monday night, the fundraising page had taken in $9,529 in donations toward a goal of $20,000 leading up to Jessica Russo’s planned funeral on March 7, according to the website.

An earlier version of this story misstated the location of Dotty’s Gaming & Spirits on North Hualapai Way. It is in Centennial Hills.

If you are thinking about suicide, or are worried about a loved one or friend, help is available 24/7 by calling or texting the Lifeline network at 988. Live chat is available at 988lifeline.org.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X. Review-Journal digital content producer Taylor Lane contributed to this report.

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