Family members of Mexican-American superstar and Long Beach-raised Jenni Rivera, whose plane crashed early Sunday in northern Mexico, said Monday night that they hadn't yet given up. | PHOTOS
"We still have hope that she's alive," Pedro Rivera Jr., the singer's brother, said at a news conference outside the home of their mother, Rosa Rivera, in Lakewood's Country Club Estates. "It's a 95 percent chance that she's dead, but we have that belief because we don't have a body. They found clothes. They found shoes, but they didn't find any DNA."
He was joined at the news conference by his brothers, Lupillo and Juan Rivera, and their father, Pedro Rivera.
"We have to believe that because we believe in a powerful God who with a 5 percent chance would do something," he said. "I'm willing to take that risk. If God doesn't come through, he is still the one who gives us life."
His three brothers, Juan, Lupillo and Gustavo, were set to travel to Monterrey, Mexico, Monday night to search for answers, Pedro Rivera Jr. said.
"But they are going there expecting the worst," he said.
One major Mexican newspaper, Mexico City-based Reforma, reported Monday night that Rivera's remains and those of the other passengers had been transported to an area morgue. No other media had confirmed the news.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to help investigate the crash, and the board said Mexican authorities had informed them that Rivera had died in the accident.
The plane, being flown by two pilots, was taking Rivera and her publicist, Arturo Rivera, her makeup artist, Jacob Yebale, and two friends, one named Mario Macias and another who was only identified as Gerardo, to the central Mexican city of Toluca after a Saturday night concert before thousands in the northern city of Monterrey. All were killed, and the Learjet 25 disintegrated on impact Sunday in rugged territory in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico, authorities said.
Long Beach mourns own
Meanwhile, fans and supporters seemed to have accepted the inevitable as vigils, memorials and condolences continued across the U.S. and Mexico, including in Jenni Rivera's hometown of Long Beach.
About 75 people gathered for a candlelight vigil Monday night at the headquarters of Long Beach nonprofit California Families in Focus, to which Rivera had donated "a vanload of toys" and other goods for the group's Christmas collections, said CEO and founder Angel Macias.
The crowd chanted Rivera's songs and paid homage to the mother of five, grandmother of two and three-time Grammy nominee whose Spanish-language grupero music made her a star on both sides of the border. Rivera was born on July 2, 1969, in Los Angeles as Dolores Janney Rivera Savedra and was raised in West Long Beach.
Earlier in the day at Rivera's first high school, Long Beach's Poly High, an impromptu memorial of a few candles and two pots of poinsettias had been set up at the school's Walk of Fame at which Rivera received a star in July 2011.
During the ceremony, Rivera described herself as "a nerd who played in the marching band on this same field."
"I played my music then, and today I've come back because of my music," Rivera said at the time.
Rivera later transferred from Poly High and attended Reid Continuation High School after getting pregnant at the age of 15. It was just one of many personal challenges Rivera would face as her career took off.
"People could relate to her struggles, that's why so many people loved her," said Jessica Quintana, executive director of Centro CHA, a nonprofit Latino social service agency in Long Beach. "She captivated her audience by being herself at all times and being open with her life through her music and interviews with the press. She always remained grounded."
Quintana said she fondly remembers Rivera before she hit stardom while the two lived in West Long Beach.
Like many other mothers in the poverty-stricken neighborhood that would later be highlighted in her music, Rivera was raising her children and pursuing a career, Quintana said.
"She was an inspiration because she always kept it real," Quintana said. "She talked about her life in a very open way and really cared about the issues that affected women, like poverty, domestic violence and independence."
After her teenage pregnancy, Rivera used the obstacle as inspiration to move forward and transferred to Reid Continuation High School to earn her diploma, she told the Press-Telegram in May 2011.
"Growing up in Long Beach, I learned to face the world. I also learned that I wanted more for myself and wanted to become something," Rivera said during the interview at her $3 million mansion in the San Fernando Valley.
Inspiring despite scandals
Rivera was the most famous daughter of a musical family that includes four brothers who have recorded music, and as her music career took off, so did her public scandals.
In 2007 her ex-husband, Trinidad Marin, was found guilty of sexual abuse for molesting her oldest daughter and youngest sister.
In 2009, she was detained at the Mexico City airport when she declared $20,000 in cash but was really carrying $52,167. She was taken into custody.
She said it was an innocent mistake and authorities gave her the benefit of the doubt and released her.
In 2011, her brother Juan assaulted a drunken fan at a popular fair in Guanajuato, Mexico. In the face of heavy criticism among her fans and on social networks, Rivera publicly apologized for the incident during a concert in Mexico City.
None of the controversies seemed to impact her musical career.
Rivera sold more than 15 million copies of her 12 major-label albums and won a string of Latin music awards. Her shows filled both the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Mexico's National Auditorium, a feat few male singers in her industry achieved.
On Sunday, Rivera's plane was taking her and aides to the central Mexican city of Toluca after a Saturday night concert before thousands in the northern city of Monterrey. Rivera was on her way to Mexico City to be a judge on "La Voz," the Mexican version of talent show "The Voice."
After the concert she gave a press conference during which she spoke of her emotional state following her recent move to divorce former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who played for teams including the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rivera announced in October that she was divorcing Loaiza after two years of marriage.
For her fans, Rivera's tumultuous life only seemed to increase their adoration.
"I love the message in her music, to be strong no matter what you encounter," said Eva Arriaga, 54, of Chino Hills, who was one of numerous fans and onlookers gathered Monday afternoon outside the family's Lakewood home where a memorial had been erected.
Rivera also inspired up-and-coming musicians.
Karla Morales, 28, of Wrightwood, said she met Rivera backstage at her concert in 2008 and remained in contact with the singer and her family over the years.
Morales is trying to break into the Latin pop industry herself and looked to Rivera as an inspirational figure, Morales said.
"To be in front of a person of that magnitude and artistic background, it was an honor even to speak to her," said Morales, a Pomona native. "She told me not to give up and gave me very positive feedback. I appreciated that, because not a lot of artists would take the time to do that."
It was that mentoring role that led Quintana and other local Latino community leaders to seek out Rivera.
During the past year, Quintana had reached out to the singer to partner in an event to benefit West Long Beach. Although it didn't come to fruition because of Rivera's packed schedule, Rivera seemed eager to come back to her old neighborhood to help out any way she could, Quintana said.
"We wanted to recognize her because she had done so much with her life despite her struggles," Quintana said. "Jenni could always relate to the constituents we serve. There are a lot of people here that are still going through the same challenges that she went through."
Centro CHA hoped to bring Rivera back to the Westside to work with her on building a center for women and children that would provide resources for women dealing with domestic violence, teen mothers and others.
"That would be the ultimate legacy we could give her," Quintana said.
Staff Writers Joe Segura and Maritza Velazquez, freelance writer Brenda Duran and The Associated Press contributed to this report.