Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – One year ago tomorrow on November 19, 20-year-old Jenni-Lyn Watson was killed by an ex-boyfriend in her family’s town of Clay home.
Steven Pieper is currently serving 23 years to life for the crime.
The slain girl's parents are serving their own life sentence – one of grief and sadness.
NewsChannel 9 morning anchor Dan Cummings sat down with Jackie and David Watson for a conversation one year later.
Jackie and David would like us to think not about how Jenni-Lyn died, but how she lived.
"She had passion. She was compassionate, caring, thoughtful. She was the greatest daughter and sister and friend that many of us have ever had. She should be celebrated. Her life should be celebrated," Jackie Watson said.
Some of the celebration was captured forever in photographs. One of her parents' favorites the girl took herself.
They feel that you can see life the way she did when you look into her eyes.
"She really looked past problems and imperfections…not to ignore them. She just had this way of realizing, there's so much in life out there, ‘I'm not gonna let this bog me down.’ And she had this passion of, not only dance, but the life that it gave her. Just the energy it gave her…from dance. And that's a gift," David Watson said.
The gift of dance is one that Jenni-Lyn loved and freely shared. When her life's dance ended at the age of 20 at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, the Watsons were forced to draw deeply on a faith that, among other things, gives them a place to direct their anger.
"It's okay to be mad at God. God understands. Evil was stronger that day. So I have to hold onto that to survive," David Watson said.
They also hold onto those precious memories of a daughter who, when something bad or bothersome happened, allowed the bother to last maybe three minutes.
"She would just bop down the stairs again and let it roll off of her and get on with life…just didn't let things bother her," Jackie Watson said. "Life goes on. And, ah, bad things happen and you just have to overcome. Time's too short."
There are two memorial funds dedicated to the Watsons' daughter. One is through the Central New York Community Foundation
. The other is at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa.,
where Jenni-Lyn studied.