CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - A Clayton County celebrate their daughter's 18th birthday, even though she wasn't there.
Sa'Myah Necole Copeland would have turned 18 on Monday, April 16. She was killed in a murder-suicide at the age of 16, shot and killed by her 15-year-old boyfriend. Clayton County police said the murder-suicide unfolded at the boy's home near Riverdale.
On Monday, Sa'Myah's parents and friends honored her memory with a walk against gun violence.
It's hard for her parents not to wonder what life would be like if she hadn't been killed by her boyfriend in October of 2016.
"Just the thought of her not being here hurts even more," her mother Tuwanna said.
To honor Sa'Myah's birthday, Tuwanna, organized a "walk against gun violence". It will culminate with a candlelight vigil at Riverdale High School, where Sa'Myah was a popular student.
She's inviting teens and parents to be there at 7 p.m. ready to have a candid conversation about the critical issues that cut short far too many young lives.
"My thing is to start a movement," she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a 2015 Survey found that nearly 12 percent of high-school girls reported physical violence and nearly 16 percent reported sexual violence from a dating partner. More than 7 percent of high-school boys reported physical violence and about 5 percent reported sexual violence from a dating partner.
Tuwanna says there were no signs of trouble with the 15-year-old boy her daughter dated off and on with parental supervision for two years.
"He was taken in like family – family night, game night, movie night, pillow fights – he was there," she said.
That's why Sa'Myah's parents hope other parents will ask their own teens some tough questions about how they're being treated by their own friends and companions. And they believe basic coping skills and non-violent conflict resolution should also be part of those conversations.
"What's the purpose of hurting and killing?" She asked. "Why hurt? Why not love?"