MELBOURNE, Fla. - Friends and family would like to remember Jo Ellen Johnson as a happy, caring retired teacher, who loved life and helped others.
"She was an educator, she had worked with all levels of students from middle school science students all the way to special needs students," her friend Kelly Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez met her two years ago when Johnson was volunteering at the local yacht club. They became good friends.
"She was the kind of person who would always encourage you. If you thought you couldn't do something, she'd always say, 'I think you can. I think it's easier than you think.'"
Rodriguez says Johnson worked as a park ranger in her retirement and volunteered to help disabled children at a riding center in the Tampa area. She was also a musician, playing the bodhrán (Irish Drum) with local Irish music groups for many years in Tampa, Cocoa, and Melbourne.
"She was very youthful. She didn't look her age by any means, as I think most people had that reaction when they see her pictures."
On Thursday, police in Virginia arrested 33-year-old Brian Karl Peters, Jr. He is a suspect in Johnson's murder and another death in Pennsylvania. They say he brutally killed Johnson and left her in a shallow grave outside her home. Now, Melbourne police are waiting for Peters to be transported back to Florida.
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Johnson's friends are still in shock.
"This was our worst fear of what might have happened."
Now they're only trying to honor her memory.
"She really lived by the golden rule. She treated others the way she'd like to be treated."
Johnson's friends hope to set up a charity in her name.