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Carpinteria woman, Ventura County man killed in Las Vegas shooti - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Carpinteria woman, Ventura County man killed in Las Vegas shooting

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A Carpinteria woman was among the 59 people killed on Sunday in a mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival.

Denise Cohen, 57, was born in the Bay Area and had lived in Santa Barbara County for the last ten years, working as a property manager. 

Hearing your loved one was killed in a mass shooting is news no one ever wants to hear, but that's what Jeff Rees heard about his mom Monday night. He then relayed that information to her best friend, Leana Orsua. Just hours before, the two didn't know whether Cohen was alive. On Tuesday, they remembered the positive impact she left on this world.

"She was just a ray of light and when she walked into a room, she lit it up," Orsua said of her best friend of ten years.

Rees says his mom radiated positive energy and was a fan of country music.

"She was a rare person. She really, really was and anyone who's ever known her or talked to her could all say the same thing," Rees said.

Orsua and Denise lived together. Orsua expected her best friend to come home Sunday night but found out that Denise decided to stay in Vegas until Monday with her friend, Bo Taylor, a lieutenant with the California Department of Corrections' Ventura Conservation Camp.

She says the two were celebrating Taylor's birthday at the State Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. 

"I woke up that (Monday) morning to phone calls and messages that there was a massacre in Las Vegas and everyone was just concerned about Denise and trying to reach out to her," Orsua said.

Rees, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, said after the news of the attack broke, he didn't initially know that his mom had attended the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival until his wife told him. Then he began to worry.

"The whole day I was crying because I just wanted to hear her voice," he said.  

Rees said his great uncle who lives in Nevada went to the convention center in Las Vegas to see if he could find out if Cohen was injured. Sending Rees updates throughout the afternoon, he says it was confirmed that Taylor and Cohen had missed their flights and their luggage was still in their hotel room. By the evening, Rees said his uncle's wife was able to positively identify Cohen and Taylor, and that's when the call came in.

"Words that I'll never forget," Rees said. "He told me, 'I'm sorry, son, we lost them both.'"

Orsua says she got the call from Rees Monday night. 

"I just hope that she went quickly, and I know she was at a happy place," Orsua said. "She was dancing and singing and I think that's what she's doing right now in heaven." 

Rees says his stepmother and brother are now in Las Vegas trying to get more answers and working to get Denise home. 

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