Loved ones of a California teen brutally murdered this week say they want her to be remembered for how she lived and not how she died, KXTV reports.
“Everybody wanted to be around her because she was the one that danced and she lived life,” Angela Martinez told the television station about her niece, Saraiah Acosta.
Around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, police in Rancho Cordova, a Sacramento suburb, received a report that a man had stabbed a woman and then run over her using a vehicle. First responders rushed to the scene and found the 18-year-old Acosta dead with multiple stab wounds.
Authorities soon identified a suspect, 22-year-old Devian Lewis, and tracked him to nearby Elk Grove around 5 p.m. Sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop Lewis, but he did not pull over, prompting a chase and the suspect’s vehicle to crash.
Lewis allegedly attempted to exit the vehicle holding what police said looked like a gun, and three officers fired at Lewis, shooting him three times.
Authorities say a fake gun was found on the front passenger seat.
Lewis survived the shooting and is recovering. He is expected to be charged with murder and other crimes, and will be booked into jail after his release from the hospital, KCRA-TV reports.
Investigators have not said whether they have identified a motive for the attack, but Lewis and Acosta had reportedly been in an on-again, off-again relationship over the past two years, according to KCRA-TV.
A neighbor’s security camera captured audio of the incident, including the voice of a woman who could be heard saying “stop” multiple times, according to KOVR-TV.
Martinez, Acosta’s aunt, said her niece made people in her life happy and was a diligent sister who had a sense of responsibility for her siblings.
The teen graduated last year from Cordova High School and had only recently earned her driving permit. She loved school and sports, especially softball.
Acosta’s death has shattered her family, Martinez told KXTV.
“It was a feeling that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. She was my baby before I even had babies,” Martinez told the television station. “This definitely took a piece of all of us.”
Martinez added: “I was there the day she was born and been there ever since. It’s definitely going to be hard.
“Anytime you’re around her, you can’t be sad, you can’t be mad because she’s just this jumpy, little cheerful, sassy person, because we can’t leave out the sassy part,” Martinez told KXTV. “You put on R. Kelly, that girl was dancing. You put on oldies, she was singing. She was the life of the party.”
On Thursday, Acosta’s family and friends came together for a candlelight vigil. Martinez said the event demonstrated the community’s love for her niece.
“I guess, you just never really know how loved your children, your niece, your nephews are when they walk out of that house and the blessing she’s put into the community,” Martinez told KXTV. “The turnout was just amazing.”
The family has launched a GoFundMe to help raise money for Acosta’s memorial.
“While we all grieve the loss of her, we are asking for any assistance and/or donations to help us lay our beautiful angel to rest and to also help the family with expenses they will incur as they begin their lengthy journey with the grieving process,” the fundraiser reads.
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[Feature Photo: Saraiah Acosta via GoFundMe/N04 Photography]