May 31 would have been Julie and Luis Campos’ third wedding anniversary. Tragically, the La Puente, California, couple will not be celebrating: Luis recently was killed after allegedly getting sucker-punched in Las Vegas — where the couple met little more than five years ago.
“Our love story began and ended in Vegas,” Julie Campos tells PEOPLE, adding she has no plans to ever return to the city. “It’s still so mind-boggling for me. He was such an amazing man and an amazing husband and father. He was my best friend, my lover, my mate, my everything … I am super proud of the time I had with him.”
According to authorities, Campos was punched, unprovoked, by a complete stranger while standing in line outside a Las Vegas bar with his younger brother the morning of April 30. The two brothers were in town for a bachelor party, reportedly for another brother’s wedding, police said.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has filed a single count of open murder against 27-year-old James Beach, who investigators allege delivered the fatal blow to the a 45-year-old father-of-five’s head. Beach has yet to enter a plea to the charges and it was unclear Wednesday if he had retained legal counsel who could comment on his behalf. He remains in custody on an unspecified amount of bail.
Immediately after being hit, Campos collapsed, falling to the pavement as Beach and a second man he was with allegedly fled, according to police. The second man will not face charges, investigators say.
Campos died at local University Medical Center after four days on life support.
Julie Campos, the mother of Luis’ two youngest children, tells PEOPLE she refused to leave her husband’s hospital bed as she prayed in vain for him to make a miraculous recovery.
“I can’t tell you how devastating it is to watch someone so strong and healthy and beautiful, to just see him wither away because of one senseless act,” Campos says. “I watched him deteriorate over the span of four days. It was terrible. It’s shocking on the psyche. It’s emotionally and physically draining, watching someone you love that much fade away.”
A Model Husband and Father
Julie says that her husband drove trucks for Cemex, a company that manufactures and distributes cement. He had three teenage children with his first wife.
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“He was a hard worker and worked his hands to the bone so I could stay at home with my babies,” Campos says. “When we started having children, I couldn’t bare to be away from them. I was working as a hairdresser but we sat down and crunched the numbers. Luis said he didn’t want strangers raising the babies, so he pulled 14-hour works days so I could stay home and play with my little babies. I’m so grateful he was willing to do that for me.”
Julie says her husband was “just a normal guy who loved his family” and liked restoring classic cars; he was halfway through overhauling a 1955 Chevrolet.
“He was a gear head who didn’t need to live a flashy life,” she explains. “We were both happy with what we had and how we lived. I feel like we had so much more to our love story.”
Campos tells PEOPLE her two children only know that their father is “an angel now.” As they get older, she plans to have honest conversations with her kids about Luis’ death.
“It was just so ugly and vicious,” she says. “You never think that something like this is going to hit so close to home, but when it does, you realize you have to count your blessings every day and cherish the moments you have.”
Keeping Luis’ Memory Alive
A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help cover the costs of Luis’ funeral, which has been scheduled for May 27; Julie is still waiting for investigators to release her husband’s remains. She says she is thankful for the support she’s been receiving from complete strangers, and says it has been helping her get through this life-altering time.
“Yesterday, I was driving home, and it hit me that this was the route that Luis would take to and from work for years and now, he’s never going to experience it again,” Julie says. “We will never experience him coming home from work again and I will never experience my kids running up to the door to greet him and him kneeling down with his arms wide open, grasping both of his babies … it’s hard to imagine.”
Julie says that Luis’ relatives are all dealing with the pain of his loss in different ways. Most are either “extremely sad or in shock,” she says.
She says she has been handling her husband’s death as best she can, with her children ever present in her mind.
“I don’t want to interrupt their routine,” Julie explains. “I’ve just been here, in our home, with the babies, reminiscing and recalling memories, smelling his clothes, sleeping on his side of the bed with his pillow — that’s all I can do to be close to him.”