A devastated Massachusetts family is mourning the stabbing death of a 27-year-old woman, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend, and only learning now that she'd told friends she was in an abusive relationship.
The family of Jamee Ammons-Maddrey is urging others to reach out if they're going through something similar, and asking people to reach out to any loved ones they're worried about.
"When you think you love someone and they're hurting you, that is not love. That is not love at all," said her mother, Rosemary Maddrey.
Ammons-Maddrey loved life, her mother said. But police found her dead at her Framingham apartment Monday in a wellness check.
Maddrey told NBC10 Boston that she'd asked police to check on her daughter due to mother's intuition — Ammons-Maddrey had uncharacteristically stopped responding to phone calls and there was no answer at her door, even though her car was at home.
The officers "stopped me from going in as they went in ... when they closed the door, I knew she was in there. I knew they'd found my baby," Maddrey recalled, bursting into tears.
Ammons-Maddrey's body was discovered riddled with stab wounds. Her boyfriend, 25-year-old Christopher McKoy of Brockton, was charged with murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on Tuesday, after being taken into custody in a separate case.
He appeared in court Wednesday in the other case, in which his lawyer said he has a history of schizophrenia and that he needs further evaluation at a hospital. McKoy's arraignment on the charges in his girlfriend's death is set for Thursday.
Ammons-Maddrey was short and pretty — so pretty she knew it, with a luminous smile — and feisty as well, according to her family.
"What could be that extreme that you could take someone's life? To stab my baby? She's a tiny thing! Four[-foot]-11!" Rosemary Maddrey said.
Ammons-Maddrey had been dating McKoy for seven months, according to her family. Her brother, Jayshawn Maddrey, said he never liked McKoy, but when he warned Ammons-Maddrey about him, his sister said she would be OK.
Jayshawn and Rosemary Maddrey said that they've learned Ammons-Maddrey only admitted to her friends that the relationship was abusive. Rosemary Maddrey said she herself had been the victim of domestic violence — something her daughter knew.
"Me as a big brother, half of me feels like I let her down because I couldn't be there to protect her and secure her, but I know my sister was strong and I know she didn't tell me for a reason," Jayshawn Maddrey said, adding that victims of domestic violence should reach out for help right away.
"If you're going through anything, you get hit, anything — that first time, you've got to let somebody know because that first time is not it," he continued.
Those feelings where echoed by her father, Jimmie Ammons, who remains in disbelief: "Losing a child, not accidentally but by murder, you can't understand it. ... It still doesn't seem like it's real, you know? My baby's gone."
If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. Massachusetts has collected information on local domestic violence programs here.