It has been one year since the death of a Brookline girl who friends say could light up a room with her smile.
On Saturday evening, as they did a year ago, friends and family of Karissa Marie Kunco gathered at the cannon monument on Brookline Boulevard to remember her.
“We’re trying to do more on the positive side,” said Kunco’s aunt, Debbie Ryce. “A year ago today, God received an angel in heaven. We’re here to keep her memory alive and be her voice, and spread the message against domestic violence.”
Kunco was reported missing on Jan. 11, 2012 when she failed to meet a friend in Castle Shannon to go tanning. Her body was found one day later, in a heavily wooded area near Westland in Mt. Pleasant Township. She was 21.
Her estranged ex-boyfriend, Jordan Clemons, was charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, access device fraud and other offenses.
Several of Kunco’s family members were wearing “Karissa’s Army” T-shirts at Saturday’s vigil. Another of her aunts, Donna DiPippa, said the family has started Karissa’s Army to raise awareness about domestic violence.
Kunco, who had been living in Baldwin Borough with her father, grew up in Brookline and still had many friends there.
Her death was a hard hit for the close-knit Brookline community, and still resonates a year later.
Kunco’s mother did not want to speak with the press, but in speaking to the crowd, she said the pain of not being able to hug and hold her daughter is unbearable, and something she would not wish on her worst enemy.
For Kunco’s cousin, Katie Gaita, the pain of losing a friend and cousin has not lessened over the past year.
“It shouldn’t have happened at all,” Gaita said. “She was always the happiest, most loving person ever. You can see how many people are here.”
Kunco’s family is trying to stay positive and remember happy times they had with Karissa. Her aunts told funny stories about her childhood during the vigil, and shared their memories of her.
“I just always remember her smiling,” DiPippa said. “Whatever sport she wanted to do, whatever she tried, she was good at. She had so many friends and so many people just loved her. We just miss her.”