CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Friends and family lit candles for Danielle Locklear Wednesday night by the river where the 15-year-old's body was found.
They also reflected on a year of heartbreak and hope.
"Since her life was cut so short so quickly," said Chena Simmons, Locklear's aunt, "We don't want anyone to forget, but what it has done is reopened our eyes to teen violence."
Locklear disappeared March 11, 2014 from her grandparents' Hope Mills Home. She told them she was going to a friend's house. Investigators believe she was killed the same night.
Her then 17-year-old ex-boyfriend Je'Michael Malloy has confessed to strangling Locklear. Relatives and friends said the couple had a sometimes strained and troubled relationship.
Wednesday afternoon, friends and family added extra bows and flowers to a makeshift memorial on a bridge over the South River where Locklear's body was discovered.
This first anniversary is a bittersweet moment.
"I am glad people get together and remembered Dannie," said family friend Tina Turner. "I just hate it has to be under these circumstances."
At the Wednesday night vigil, a crowd of more than 50 people sang praises, held each other and prayed that Danielle's death will help others live.
Pastor James Simmons said over the past year he's seen a big increase in the number of teens he counsels on violence.
"I am just trying to teach them the basics, about the red flags that you see, the bruises on their body, and to let their parents know," said Simmons.
Locklear's family hopes her death will inspire other teens to speak up if they are being abused.
Report a Typo
Family, friends gather to honor the life of Danielle Locklear in Cumberland County
More TOP STORIES News