A heartbroken community comes together for a candlelight vigil Monday night at Lake Winona to remember Jaida Hoffman who was killed in a domestic violence incident last July. The Winona Police Department report says the shooting happened during a fight with a man that ended with a gunshot wound to her head. Dozens of people whose lives she touched gathered around a bench dedicated in memory of the life cut short at 34-years.
"She used to text me every day that she loved me when I left for work," said Kim Stolpa, Hoffman's mother. "She texted me every night when I went to bed, and don't have that anymore. She was my evil twin, and I was hers, and we did a lot together."
Attending Monday's vigil, you learn, even on her darkest days, Jaida always carried a smile. "My daughter as a person was a very free-spirited soul. She had an infectious smile and laugh," said Stolpa.
Willow Gibbons, Hoffman's younger sister says Hoffman will remain her big sister.
"No one should ever have to go through that. I know that she's protecting me from a better place," said Gibbons.
"I miss her," said Kendra Tibor, Hoffman's aunt. "Every day I think of her, every second of every day. I look at her picture and I just can't believe that it's true yet, I just haven't accepted it that she's never gonna be there."
Jaida's mother referenced Hoffman's tragedy to remind vigil attendees that domestic violence is an ongoing problem. Every year more than 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
"Everyone needs to be aware, no matter how nice of a person someone may seem, some people have hidden dark secrets, and he was definitely one of those," said Stolpa. "I've seen it, I've lived it. Unfortunately, it took a tragedy for me to want to speak about it."
Jaida's light will forever live on, in the form of a candle sitting beneath her bench.
"Jaida is the beat of the dance within our feet. She is the song in our hearts that strum each and every day. The courage we let out when we walk down the street," said Stolpa.
This July the family will hold a memorial marking a year since her death