"Essence was the life of the party," says longtime friend Compassion Anderson. "Even in high school we always had a blast. Never a dull moment."
ORIGINAL REPORT: Police say innocent bystander shot and killed in N. Houston
The 21-year-old had just left Club Panda early Sunday morning when she was killed. Houston police say she was in traffic, sitting alone in her car waiting for club traffic to clear out, when a man approached and started shooting.
"She didn't deserve to die like this in the street," her mother Paula Vergin said. "Just random violence. Her killing was senseless. Why? What did she do to you?"
Essence was a sous chef at Rice University. Her murder led the university to close her kitchen at Baker College for the day. She also worked at the Houston rodeo.
"She was a single mother with one kid of her own that she worked two jobs to take care of," Vergin said.
At Monday's candlelight vigil, Pastor E.A. Deckard said a special prayer for her 6-year-old.
"Her son will have a prosperous future. We will love on him, adopt him, support him, and make sure this man becomes a king," Deckard prayed.
Deckard told Eyewitness News Essence was the third young lady in her circle of friends to be shot and killed in the last eight months.
"Police didn't kill any of them. The other race didn't kill any of them. We are killing each other and we need to embrace one another and love on one another."
Houston police say the suspect is a black male who was wearing white pants and a blue shirt at the time of the shooting. He got away in a white or gray Buick LeSabre.
"All we want is justice," Anderson says. "I know you ain't going to just come straight forward like 'I did it,' but for those family members that know he did it, for those friends that know he did it, think about the hurt that we have. Think about her child, her mother, her friends. Who could sit at home knowing they did this to somebody? It's just not right."
"If anybody has any information on who took my daughter's life, please come forward," adds her mother. "Please. I need the closure. Please."
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help cover her funeral expenses.
There will also be a benefit Thursday at Mr. A's, 3409 Cavalcade.
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