Sgt. Tim Owens Learned He Had a Sister Weeks Before His Death

04/06/2014 at 12:00 PM EDT

Sgt. Tim Owens Learned He Had a Sister Weeks Before His Death
Army Sgt. Timothy Owens
Fort Hood Public Affairs Office/Reuters/Landov
As soon as Sgt. Tim Owens learned he had a sister that he never knew about, he asked for her phone number.

"They had gotten to speak on the phone only about two weeks before he passed," Owens's cousin, Betty Goodwin, tells PEOPLE. "He called her and they laughed together for a few minutes."

It's the only time Owens, 37, would get the chance to speak to her. He was shot in the chest on April 2 at Fort Hood by Ivan Lopez, who killed three soldiers and wounded 16 more. Goodwin says that her cousin did not have a pulse when the EMTs showed up.

Owens's 77-year-old mother, Mary Mustean, from Effingham, Ill., had given up her daughter at birth. After 54 years, she received a call from her daughter, who lives in Indianapolis, and they met for the first time.



"Aunt Mary gained a daughter that she had lost years ago, but now has lost a son that she'll never get to see again," Goodwin says.

Owens had recently signed up to be in the military for six more years. Goodwin expected him to spend the rest of his life in the military.

"They took all the great qualities of Tim and put it in that uniform and transformed him into twice the man," she says.

Since the news broke, Owens's mother, who suffers from a heart condition, has had trouble sleeping while she waits for answers from the military. Her son used to call her every couple of days.

"He was a very devoted son," Goodwin says. "He was the man of the house. He would call her and say, 'Hey Mom, how are you doing?' "

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