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Las Vegas family grieves deaths of mother, daughter days apart

All Natelie Carbajal wanted in life was to be a mom.

She often took care of her nieces and nephews before she received the unexpected news she was pregnant, her aunt Dee Yera said Tuesday.

Carbajal didn’t believe it herself — Yera quipped that she didn’t know how many pregnancy tests her niece took to confirm her pregnancy.

“I know someone’s playing a trick on me,” Carbajal would say.

Carbajal gave birth to a baby girl. Yera declined to share the baby’s name, but Carbajal would spend only a couple of months with her infant daughter.

The 29-year-old mother’s charred remains were found July 4 about a mile east of the Seven Magic Mountains art installation about 25 miles south of Las Vegas. The Clark County coroner’s office determined she died from a gunshot wound to the head, and her death was ruled a homicide.

Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said the investigation was ongoing Tuesday when asked about arrests in her killing.

Carbajal’s family received the grim news while preparing for another loss in their family, Yera said.

Relatives had gathered at the home of Carbajal’s mother, Alicia “Curly” Carbajal, on July 11 to say their final goodbyes to the terminal cancer patient when they heard a knock at the door. It was the police.

Detectives informed the family that the younger Carbajal was dead. Relatives tried, but failed, to keep her mother from finding out on her deathbed.

“But it was just unreal,” Yera said. “You don’t plan for this.”

Relatives cried and screamed, and Curly heard the commotion.

“She said, ‘Natelie.’ She knew,” Yera said.

“She gave a cry that I’ve only ever heard mothers give at funerals.”

The older Carbajal lost consciousness and never awoke, Yera said. She died shortly before 1 a.m. July 13. She was 48.

Relatives have leaned on one another in the time since their deaths. The dual losses devastated the family, which recently received another cancer diagnosis.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Yera said.

Natelie and Curly

Natelie Carbajal wasn’t a loud person, but you always knew when the “happy camper” was in the room, her aunt said. Yera remembers her niece’s distinct laugh. Oh, that laugh.

“It was so contagious that even if you were having a bad day, you would laugh because of that stupid, funny laugh,” she said.

She expressed kindness toward those in need, like Yera’s son, who dealt with his own issues and sometimes needed assistance. Natelie Carbajal offered her cousin advice and would offer him a place to stay when he needed one, acting as “the big sister” to all of her cousins, Yera said.

The young mother’s “beautiful” baby shower in March was the last family reunion they had, she said. Since her daughter’s birth, Natelie Carbajal would post about her numerous sleepless nights on Facebook. But it was all worth it, she would say.

“The baby was pretty much her everything,” Yera said.

Family is working to ensure her daughter has a safe and caring living situation, Yera said, but she declined to discuss details.

Curly Carbajal lived up to her nickname both in her hair and her personality. She was Curly, like the Three Stooges character: silly, carefree and friends with everyone, Yera said.

“She was my partner in crime,” she said.

Yera was the first in her family to move to Las Vegas from California, and one-by-one over the years, her six sisters and other family members joined them in the valley.

Curly was a proud, gay woman and lived in Las Vegas for about 20 of her 48 years, her sister said. She loved what the 24/7 city had to offer, be it the buffets or bowling with family.

“Vegas was definitely her city,” Yera said.

Yera acknowledges she was more shy and reserved than her older sister, but Curly’s gregarious personality eventually rubbed off. She said they came to share the same circle of friends, and Yera has since become the friendly, loving woman that her sister was.

“She taught me to be Curly,” Yera said.

Yera set up a GoFundMe page to help cover her sister’s and niece’s funeral expenses. Leftover money will go toward a bank account Yera has set up for the infant that she can access when she turns 18. The page had raised more than $11,000 as of Tuesday.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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