“She wanted to help people. She's got the biggest heart in the world.”
Tanya Myers says her sister Mandi constantly sacrificed for others throughout her life, first going overseas to serve her country with the Army Reserves, then going to school to become a nurse.
It was a life full of promise that came to a violent and tragic end.
Tanya was the one that found her sister's naked, lifeless body locked in the closet of her Virginia Beach apartment just 8 days ago.
“I absolutely lost it. It wasn’t real to me, nothing was real. I felt like I was just walking around in a circle. I was just with her the day before,” said Myers.
The sisters had just returned from a Thanksgiving road trip to Ohio, but the next day, Mandi suddenly disappeared from the radar.
“I got a call around 12:45 from two numbers I didn’t recognize, and they ended up being from her job. She is a home health nurse, and they said she didn't show up at work, which was completely unlike my sister,” said Myers.
When Tanya showed up at Mandi's Indian Lakes apartment, no one came to the door.
“My first instinct was to climb that balcony, and find out what was going on inside,” said Myers. “I just started opening up doors, looking in things, and that’s when I pushed on the closet. It didn’t open, and I just felt her in there.”
Myers got her boyfriend to pry open the door.
“I saw a portion of her, I didn’t see her face, and honestly, I thank God that I didn’t. I’m still struggling with what I saw,” said Myers.
Police quickly zeroed in on a suspect--Mandi's ex-boyfriend and father of her children, Jamiel Graves.
It’s something Tanya didn't even consider at first.
She says the couple had lots of problems throughout their relationship, mostly caused by Graves, and that he had made life harder for Mandi emotionally, but she never thought he would ever hurt her physically.
“I didn’t think of him--didn’t correlate it to him,” said Myers. “I wanted to be angry, I knew I needed to be angry, but deep down, anger is not going to bring Mandi back.”
Now, the family is trying to move on. They held a memorial service over the weekend, where all those who knew and loved Mandi came together to say goodbye.
“If more people could be like my sister, then the world would be a better place,” said Myers.
The family also made sure that Mandi's death turned into something positive.
They handed out purple and yellow ribbons to all those in attendance to bring attention to domestic violence.
“Know that when there are situations like that, you need to do everything you can to get out of that situation so you don’t end up like my sister,” said Myers.
Graves will be in court tomorrow, for an arraignment hearing on his second murder charge in Norfolk. Graves is accused of killing 26-year-old Phylicia Robinson, and hiding her body in a closet in his home. The Norfolk woman's family had been searching for her for weeks, after she went missing in early October.
Myers left behind two young daughters, Robinson left behind one young son.
Both families have set up memorial funds on behalf of their children, who no longer have mothers.
To donate to the Myers family, just go to First Advantage Federal Credit Union.
To donate to the Robinson family, head to any Wells Fargo location.