Gloria Araujo realizes her daughter, Linda Valez, had her share of troubles.
The 33-year-old Valez could be "overbearing at times" as she dealt with homelessness and battled mental illness, her mother said.
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But Araujo also says her daughter was the kind of person who looked out for others at the DuPage PADS shelter where she lived in Wheaton. And if Valez asked her mom for money for food, she always wanted to provide something for others, too.
"She helped everybody," Araujo said Tuesday. "She didn't just think of herself. Whatever she had, she would always give."
Glen Ellyn police found Valez on Saturday, buried in a shallow grave at Panfish Park. She had been stabbed dozens of times, a law enforcement source said.
On Tuesday, 40-year-old Myron Ester was charged with her murder. Authorities described him as someone Valez knew and spent time with.
Valez was the mother of seven children and the three oldest, ages 13, 12 and 10, live with Araujo in Wheaton.
Araujo said she last saw her daughter alive the evening of Sept. 23 -- the day before Valez went missing. Valez came to Araujo's house for money for gas to get to work the next day at a McDonald's restaurant in Glen Ellyn.
Araujo said her daughter was happy and excited about the prospects of getting an apartment, and recalls Valez playing with Araujo's 1-year-old great-grandson.
"When she was getting ready to go she stopped at the door and she said 'I love you,'" Araujo said. "And I usually say 'Yeah, I'm sure you think you do.' But it was the way she said it, like she knew it was the last time I was going to see her. I said 'I love you too ... I'm so proud of you; I'm so proud that your life is finally taking a turn.'"
Valez was last seen leaving her job at the restaurant the evening of Sept. 24. She and a friend from the homeless shelter were supposed to meet with a landlord the next day to talk about moving into an apartment.
When Valez didn't show up for the meeting, the friend went to Araujo's house.
"When she came and said she hadn't seen her, I knew my daughter was already gone," Araujo said.
Araujo reported her missing the next evening, Sept. 26.
Valez was one of Araujo's six children. Born and raised in York, Pa., the family moved to Berwyn about 13 years ago and then to Wheaton.
Valez had a lengthy arrest record and had filed in July to divorce her husband of 11 years, who is serving a five-year prison term for heroin delivery.
Her address for the past year and a half was the homeless shelter, where Executive Director Carol Simler said Valez was trying to better her life by using the shelter's support services and counseling.
Valez suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and manic depression, her mother said, and was taking medication for it.
Homeless, but not alone, Araujo said her daughter built a support network at PADS. She'd turn down requests to come to Fourth of July barbecues to instead dine with homeless friends. She rejected her mom's overtures to move back home.
"She said 'No mom, the people are really nice. It's not like people think,'" Araujo said. "We'd ask her, come stay with us, let us help you get on your feet. And she'd say 'But I'm on my feet.'"
Araujo said Valez helped others get on food stamps and took paralegal classes at College of DuPage for three years. She had worked at the McDonald's for almost two weeks.
Visitation for Valez will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Wheaton, 1310 N. Main St.
"She was very smart. A beautiful girl, and extremely smart," Araujo said. "People gravitated to her because she was funny. She was giving and compassionate."