Slain mom’s final words to her dad: ‘That’s good’

Apache Hightower left behind an 11-month-old daughter

Jon and Nonnie Hightower hold their granddaughter, Luna, as they talk about their daughter, Apache, September 22, 2016. Apache Hightower's body was found along a road in Columbia County on September 20, 2016 (KOIN)
Jon and Nonnie Hightower hold their granddaughter, Luna, as they talk about their daughter, Apache, September 22, 2016. Apache Hightower's body was found along a road in Columbia County on September 20, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As detectives in Columbia County try to piece together the death of Apache Hightower, her mother and father opened up and shared memories of their child who left behind an 11-month-old daughter.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said Hightower’s body was found Tuesday afternoon by a passerby in the 3000 block of Pittsburg Road, northwest of St. Helens. The person who made the discovery did not have a cell phone but was able to flag down another driver who called 911.

Deputies arrived at the scene and found the body down an embankment. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Hightower was raised in San Jose, California with her older brother and younger sister. Her parents, Jon and Nonnie Hightower, moved the family to Medford when she was roughly 12 years old. In 2014, the family moved to Portland.

Jon Hightower described his daughter as “the most sensitive person in the family.”

Apache Rose Hightower, 24, was found dead in rural St. Helens, September 20, 2016. (Columbia Co. Sheriff's Office)
Apache Rose Hightower, 24, was found dead in rural St. Helens, September 20, 2016. (Columbia Co. Sheriff’s Office)

She is remembered for her talents as an “outrageously good singer and performer,” he said.

Six years ago, Apache Hightower had her first child. Despite a healthy pregnancy, the baby died 26 days later after suffering a medical condition, the family said.

“That really destroyed her and the family,” Jon Hightower said.

Monday would have been Meadow Starr Hightower’s 6th birthday, the family said. Apache honored her first born by spending each September 19 with friends and family.

“On those days she needed support, so she would go meet friends,” Jon Hightower said.

Apache Hightower left her family’s southeast Portland residence around 10:30 p.m. Monday, and it’s believed she went out with a couple of “new friends” for drinks.

“And I said, ‘She’s doing good; she’s doing fine.’ And she said, ‘that’s good,'” Jon Hightower said. “’That’s good’ are the last words I got from her.”

Jon Hightower said he got a text message from his daughter around midnight asking how her 11-month-old girl, Luna Hightower, was doing.

“And I said, ‘She’s doing good; she’s doing fine.’ And she said, ‘that’s good,'” Jon Hightower said. “’That’s good’ are the last words I got from her.”

Nonnie Hightower woke her husband up around 4 a.m. on Tuesday with news that their daughter hadn’t returned.

“As a mother, I just felt it. I felt there was something really bad wrong,” Nonnie Hightower said.

By 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nonnie Hightower called the Portland Police Bureau to file a missing persons report.

Nonnie Hightower talks about her daughter, Apache, September 22, 2016. Apache Hightower's body was found along a road in Columbia County on September 20, 2016 (KOIN)
Nonnie Hightower talks about her daughter, Apache, September 22, 2016. Apache Hightower’s body was found along a road in Columbia County on September 20, 2016 (KOIN)

Portland Police Bureau PIO Sgt. Pete Simpson confirmed the bureau took the report, but Apache Hightower was not entered into a missing persons database. The reason being, she was an adult, and there was no indication that her life was in jeopardy at the time.

Her family said “it’s not in her character” to avoid showing up and taking care of her child. She has always been close with her daughter.

“She would never leave Luna,” Jon Hightower said.

The family doesn’t know how Apache Hightower ended up in Columbia County. To their knowledge, she’d never been there before.

Detectives with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation into Hightower’s death is still “active” and in the early stages.

The family disputes claims made online that Apache Hightower was homeless.

“She’s never not had a home,” her father said.

Both her mother and dad confirmed that Apache Hightower had friends who were homeless.

“She was the kind of person that just, she accepted everyone,” Nonnie Hightower said.

They don’t know if that could have contributed to her death. They believe the person who killed their daughter likely knew her.

Jon said Apache Hightower’s current boyfriend is helping with the investigation. They do not believe he is a suspect.

Jon Hightower talks about his daughter, Apache, September 22, 2016. Apache Hightower's body was found along a road in Columbia County on September 20, 2016 (KOIN)
Jon Hightower talks about his daughter, Apache, September 22, 2016. Apache Hightower’s body was found along a road in Columbia County on September 20, 2016 (KOIN)

“They were very happy,” Jon Hightower said of the boyfriend. “He’s a good guy.”

The family is asking that anyone with information on Apache Hightower’s death contact local law enforcement. In Portland, people can call the non-emergency line at 503.823.3333.

The Columbia County Sherriff’s Office has a tip line set up at 503-366-4698. Officials said callers can remain anonymous and that no amount of information should be considered insignificant.

“Me and her would have deep conversations about things,” Jon Hightower said. “We’d cry, you know. She was just emotional. And so am I, and I’m going to miss that.”

“I always just saw myself in her, and she was the nicest, sweetest, little girl,” Nonnie Hightower said.

The Hightowers say little Luna meant everything to her mom, and they’re doing to honor their daughter by raising her.

“This little girl is never going to know her mother and that is just more than I can bear, but we’re going to honor her and take care of her and raise her.”

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