One week before Erick Bridges was stabbed while working a graveyard shift at an east-side convenience market, he and his sister sat on her backyard patio celebrating her graduation from PCC's nursing program.
"We spent hours looking at our baby pictures and talking about what he wanted to do with his life," Jennifer Speese, 27, recalled on Monday.
"I was helping him get information about financial aid because he had hopes of attending Pima Community College and studying auto mechanics. He dreamed of owning a motorcycle shop," Speese said.
She had cared for her baby brother during part of his childhood back in McKinney, Texas. "I was his protector," she said.
Bridges, 22, moved to Tucson about four years ago to be close to Speese and their mother, Shawn Bridges, and his other siblings: Logan Bridges, 24, and Michael Speese, 28.
Jennifer Speese made sure Erick Bridges attended Compass High School, where he graduated in 2010. He worked at a fast-food restaurant where he met his fiancée, Christina Brown, 22.
Bridges, who pitched in Little League and for the La Grange High School baseball team in Texas, proposed to Brown six months ago on home plate at Baseball Field No. 2 at Morris K. Udall Regional Park, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road.
The two moved in together and Bridges wanted to earn more money, so he went to work at the Arco AM/PM at 7601 E. Tanque Verde Road, Speese said. She recalled her little brother telling her that he didn't feel safe working the graveyard shift at the store because of the unsavory customers appearing between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
"But he couldn't just up and quit," she said.
A customer found Bridges mortally wounded in the store at 1 a.m. Friday. An assailant confronted Bridges before stabbing him, Tucson police have said.
"We were working to get him off the graveyard shift and on to days," said Jamie Ott, AM/PM general manager. "Erick was not just an employee; he was family. He was like my son and a little brother to the rest of the staff."
BP, which owns Arco AM/PM, is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case, and donations are being taken at the store for memorial services, Ott said.
Bridges' attacker was described as a man in his early 20s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall with a thin build. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and dark jeans, and was carrying a dark-colored backpack, police said.
No new information on the case has been released by police, who ask that anyone with information call 911 or 88-CRIME.
For Speese and her family, the horror is just sinking in.
"I did not leave the hospital," said Speese, recalling Bridges' treatment at University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus. "I stayed by his side holding his hand until he took his last breath," she said.
Her brother underwent surgery for a wound to his aorta and a wound to his lung. He was taken off life support Saturday, Speese said.
"I want people to know that my brother was a great young man who worried and cared about others," she said.
"He loved the Green Bay Packers, motorcycles and baseball. His favorite artist was rapper Yelawolf."
Cousin Jacob Martin, 21, an estimator for a commercial-construction business in Dallas, said Bridges also liked to listen to country and alternative music.
"We grew up together and we were very close when we were children," Martin said.
"I just want justice to be served. I want the person who did this caught, and I want him to go to trial and for the court to issue a reasonable punishment."
If you go
• What: A candlelight vigil celebrating Erick Bridges' life.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Baseball Field No. 2 at Morris K. Udall Regional Park, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road.
Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4104.