The breeze blowing through the gym at CrossFit 302 on Saturday morning reminded Yvonne Reyes of her friend Amanda Johnson.
Reyes, who took afternoon CrossFit classes with Johnson at the Victoria gym for two years, still remembers when Johnson first showed up at the gym wearing the fake eyelashes that became one of her trademarks.
“We would like to talk a lot of mess,” Reyes said. “I noticed them, and I told her, ‘Wait, hold on, let me take a few steps back because you’re hitting me with your lashes.'”
On windy days, Johnson often sent Reyes videos joking that she was trying to keep those long lashes from blowing away. The breeze that filled the gym brought back memories of those videos, which still sit on Reyes’ phone along with dozens of other photos of the two friends together.
Cars filled the parking lot outside CrossFit 302 Saturday morning and spilled out along Profit Street as community members packed the gym for a workout in memory of Johnson, who was found dead in a burned-out vehicle in Matagorda County in mid-April. The mother of two, who also worked as a dance instructor and elementary school teacher, was 38.
Many of those in attendance wore black T-shirts with an image of Johnson, outlined in pink, hoisting a kettlebell in front of her nickname, “A-Rod.” Participants in the workout, which raised funds for Johnson’s funeral expenses and her two children, completed four rounds in which they burned 18 calories on a rowing machine or stationary bike and performed 21 power snatches, 10 burpees and five pullups.
The first three numbers, 4-18-21, commemorated the date of Johnson’s death, while the last two were more lighthearted. Ten burpees was the maximum number Johnson typically wanted to do, said Ray Bazan, CrossFit 302’s owner, while five pullups was typically enough for her to get a good photo for her Instagram.
“It’s a sad day, but we wanted something to lighten it up a little bit,” Bazan said.
The mood at the gym was upbeat beside the sad occasion. As each group worked out, bystanders cheered them on, took photos and danced to a playlist that included “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan.
At week’s end, details about the ongoing multiagency investigation into Johnson’s death remained scarce. Johnson was identified in a Victoria Police Department missing persons report on the evening of April 17, a Saturday. Hours later, deputies with the Matagorda County Sheriff’s Office discovered a burned-out 2018 Ford Explorer near Midfield that contained Johnson’s body.
The tragedy has drawn immense interest from the community. Earlier this week, a billboard sitting near the intersection of Navarro and North streets was lit up with a photo of Johnson.
Multiple agencies have repeatedly declined to provide updates or answer follow-up questions from the Victoria Advocate about the investigation, which is being aided by the Texas Rangers.
“This incident is being investigated as a homicide and information about the investigation is very sensitive,” said Lt. James Orr, spokesperson for the Matagorda County Sheriff’s Office.
Sgt. Ruben San Miguel, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Thursday he was not aware of any arrests that had been made or suspects that had been identified in relation to Johnson’s death.
“It’s a very complex investigation, like any investigation where there might be some kind of foul play involved,” San Miguel said. “We’re working it very hard.”
Though he could not provide further details, San Miguel said he does not consider there to be any threat to public safety at this time, based on what the authorities have learned so far.
“This was an isolated incident, from what we understand,” he said. “That’s what the investigation is leading us to.”
Reyes said it was “awesome” to see such a large turnout from the community on Saturday. As participants took to the mats, Reyes remembered one of her first workouts with Johnson, when she had struggled to complete chest-to-bar pull ups.
“She walked me through each and every one of them,” Reyes said. “She was right there with me the whole time.”
Mark Rosenberg reports on local, regional and breaking news for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at [email protected] or 361-574-1264 or on Twitter at @markrosenberg32. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/report.