Vigil held for Essence Willoughby - KCTV5

Vigil held for Essence Willoughby, supporters take stand against domestic violence

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Alice Barr/KCTV Alice Barr/KCTV

Wearing purple and carrying candles, those who knew and loved Essence Willoughby honored her Saturday by organizing a prayer vigil.

The young mother was found murdered earlier this week.

A huge crowd turned out Saturday for a candlelight vigil and group prayer for 21-year-old Willoughby.

Her family said it's this kind of show of support that's helped them carry on since her death.

Police found Willoughby's body on Tuesday abandoned in the woods. They are investigating it as a homicide.

They took Willoughby's boyfriend, Ja Ray, into custody for unpaid child support, but have not charged him in the murder. However, Willoughby's 3-year-old son told the family he saw his father, Ja Ray, and mother get into a terrible fight over the weekend just before she disappeared.

Her family says Ja Ray had a history of abusing Willoughby, so Saturday supporters wore purple in a stand against domestic violence.

There were counselors on hand and the family is urging anyone else in this position to get help.

"The relationship that Essence was in had a long history of domestic violence, and, as far as we're considered, that's what led to her passing. So, especially for our young people, we want them to understand, when somebody is hurting you, whether it's physical, or emotional, it is not OK," family friend Terri Harrison said.

Family and friends could be heard calling out her name Saturday, sharing stories about Willoughby and talking about her gentle nature, her dreams for the future.

She was studying to become a police officer.

She leaves behind two young children, who the family are supporting and caring for, especially the little 3-year-old boy, who may have witnessed what led up to him losing his mother.

Those who wish to make contributions to help raise funds for the family and children of Willoughby can do so by clicking here.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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