“I have never known anyone who gave so much of themself to so many people. It wasn’t just the kind gestures she always did but also the energy she put out into the world.”
- Christie Martens, Celia's coach
It was the 17th of September 2018. A Monday. It was a bright and clear morning in Iowa, United States and twenty two year old Celia Barquín Arozamena decided to go to Coldwater Golf Links to play golf before her afternoon classes.
Celia was from Puente San Miguel, a village in Cantabria in Northern Spain. She moved to Iowa on an athletic golf scholarship. There were plenty of scholarship options open to Celia but she chose Iowa as she loved the City of Ames. It reminded her of her own hometown.
Celia had a great relationship with her family in Spain. Her parents, Miriam Arozamena and Marcos Barquín, had two children:Celia and Andres. Marcos was a butcher and Miriam looked after the children when they were growing up. They did not have a lot but that didn't matter as the thing that was most important to the four of them was family. They worked hard to ensure that they could give their children whatever they needed. Andres went to law school and Celia won her scholarship in the United States. It was her dream to become a pro one day so that she could provide nice things for her parents.
When Celia moved to Iowa, the relationship with her family just grew even stronger. She would speak to them on Skype four or five times a day. Normally, she would let them know at the end of each day what she had been up to and when she had time off, she would go home to Spain to visit them.
Golf made Celia happy. Even when she visited her family back home, she worked hard on her game and Miriam would often join her on her long golf sessions. She was driven and determined to succeed. When others rested, she continued to push through and try to be even better. The work paid off and in 2018, Celia won the Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year award.
Even though Celia missed her life in Spain, she had settled in well in Iowa. She lived with her boyfriend, Carlos Negrin Bolaños, and made a lot of friends. She enjoyed writing little notes for them and making omelettes for everyone. Celia wanted to share her passion of Spanish food with the girls on the team. She was in her last semester at Iowa State studying civil engineering. That was a subject that she had chosen carefully. A proud feminist, Celia wanted other women to know they too could do whatever they wanted to do.
That day, the 17th of September, Celia drove to Coldwater. She spoke with Miriam on the phone on the way to the golf course. Miriam was a protective mother and worried about Celia being on her own but she felt golf was a safe sport for her. There were normally other people on the course too.
When Celia arrived, the staff told her fifteen men had driven down from Des Moines. They would be sent off for an 8:45 am shotgun start across the first four holes. Celia saw them arrive in their carts. They told her to go ahead of them as they didn't want to cause her any delays as there were fifteen of them and she was alone.
At Coldwater, the seventh hole plays alongside Squaw Creek Park. That area is mostly dense forest and some people using that area for exercise avoid that particle spot as the homeless camped there and there had been some altercations in the past. To reach the ninth tee, players need to cross a bridge and cut through a patch of the forest.
Squaw Creek Park
The group of fifteen men soon arrived at that ninth tee. It was around 10am. Celia's pushcart was still there but when they didn't see her after a few minutes, they decided to drive to her cart.
Celia's Iowa State cap was about twenty yards away from her cart and a handful of tees were scattered about the fairway. The men were worried when they saw the tees on the ground. They looked as if they had fallen out of a pocket. They called the staff and the employees searched the course. Less than half an hour later they saw a body floating in a pond near the ninth tee. It was Celia.Celia had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and torso.
A search dog tracked Celia’s scent to a tent in the woods in Squaw Creek Park.
As police searched the area, a man arrived at the Park. He told them he was just collecting his tent. His name was Collin Richards and he was twenty two years old. Police were immediately suspicious. Not only had the dog traced Celia's scent to that very tent, Collin had fresh scratches on his face. There was also a deep laceration on his left hand that was oozing blood. He was detained by police.
Before police arrived, Collin was at a friend's house and two men dropped him off at the Park to collect his tent. When he went to collect his tent, he saw the police.
The police spoke to three men. One man shared a tent with Collin and the other two men gave him a ride from the house to the Park. The owner of the house confirmed Collin had been at the house that morning but only briefly. He changed his clothes as when he arrived at the house, he was dishevelled and covered in dirt, blood, sand and water. He washed himself, changed and left with the blood stained clothes in a black backpack to head back to the Park to collect his tent. He planned to leave the area as soon as he got his tent.
The man who had been camping in the Squaw Creek woods with Collin told police that Collin had a serrated knife that he used to cut wood and the day before he told him that he had an urge to rape and kill someone.
Collin was arrested for murder in the first degree just a few hours after Celia's body was found. Collin struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems and homelessness after he got out of prison three months before he killed Celia. He had served around seven months in prison for violating the terms of his probation on convictions for burglary and other crimes. Collin had been known to the authorities from the age of ten years old.
Collin initially said that he was innocent but later decided to plead guilty. He admitted that he targeted Celia that day when she played golf alone. He did not know her. The attack was completely random.
Capital punishment is not a legal sentence in Iowa and no prisoners have been executed in the state since the 1960s. A guilty plea to a first degree murder charge carries an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole. As a result, Collin received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Collin's family believe his dependence on methamphetamine and other drugs led to mental health issues and violence.
Their lives could not have been more different. Celia appreciated everything in her life, she was truly grateful for the opportunities she received and worked hard so she could look after her parents. In her short life, Celia won multiple titles and awards playing golf. She won the European Ladies Amateur Championship and was the 2018 Big 12 Conference women's golf champion and the 2018 Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year. She was destined for greatness. Collin spent his life in and out of trouble with the authorities and on drugs. He certainly did not value Celia's life in any way. He chose her that day completely at random and murdered her because he had the urge to kill someone. That someone could have been anyone. But it wasn't. It was Celia. And that loss is felt deeply by her family, friends, team mates, boyfriend, residents from her hometown in Spain and in Ames in Iowa.
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