Kilynna Blake's family has gone from preparing for her wedding to planning her funeral.
They are preparing to bury Kilynna, 20, next to her 2-year-old son, Dayan, in Cedar City Monday, a week after their bodies were discovered in Rock Falls, Ill., the possible victims of a murder suspect.
"We're holding up as best we can, considering it hit so close to heart. She was so loved and missed," Blake's older sister, Gleniecia Lewis, told the Deseret News Wednesday.
Kilynna and Dayan were possibly among eight slain in a two-state killing spree that ended Tuesday when Nicholas T. Sheley, 28, was arrested smoking a cigarette outside a Missouri bar. Sheley also is believed by police to have killed Blake's fiance, Brock Branson, 29, and Branson's roommate, Kenneth Ulvey, 25.
In an interview with the Deseret News, Lewis spoke of her younger sister as an outgoing, "well-loved person, liked by everybody."
Born and raised in Cedar City, Blake met her fiance while working.
"He was a truck driver. They kind of hit it off," Lewis said. "They started dating; always first boyfriends you're skeptical, but he was someone I could see her with."
She had Dayan from a previous relationship. Lewis described the boy as playful and happy.
"He was always running around and never sat down," she said. "He's just a fun and happy boy. To die at 2, it's not a long life to know."
Blake and Branson stayed in Cedar City until about four months ago, when they moved to Branson's hometown of Rock Falls, Ill., so he could have visitation with his 10-year-old daughter.
"They were going to get married and make that their hometown," Lewis said.
Now, the family is writing obituaries and talking with police investigators. Branson's father told the Quad City Times newspaper on Wednesday that his son was beaten so badly that authorities were only able to identify him through a tattoo on his arm. Dallas Branson said family members were told very little about the slayings. He told the newspaper that "they don't want to botch this at all."
Sheley is accused of killing eight people in two states, from a toddler to a 93-year-old, in what police describe as "blunt force trauma." He appeared briefly in an Illinois court in connection with one of the slayings following his capture after an intense, nationwide manhunt.
Police were looking into the possibility that the rampage was fueled by drugs, but they had no way of knowing. Sheley's wife, Holly, told Sauk Valley Newspapers that her husband was a good man when he was clean and sober.
"This is not Nick," she told the newspaper after authorities sought Sheley in connection with the first killing. "Without drugs, without alcohol, Nick is kindhearted. He's caring. He has respect for people."
Sheley has been charged in only two of the eight death. Because the killings occurred in Illinois and Missouri, officials need to decide where he could be tried. Sheley faces charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, whose body was found Monday behind a grocery store in Galesburg, in northwestern Illinois, police said. Sheley also is charged with murder in the death of 93-year-old Russell Reed in Sterling, according to the Whiteside County State's Attorney. Two of Sheley's family members also were being held in Whiteside County on charges connected to Reed's killing, accused of concealing a homicidal death and obstructing justice.
Authorities said the killings began with the beating death of Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car Thursday. On Monday, police discovered the bodies of Blake, her son, Branson, and Ulvey in an apartment in nearby Rock Falls. Investigators believe they likely died late Saturday or early Sunday.
Sheley was acquainted with the male victims, Branson and Ulvey, said Illinois State Police Region Two Commander Mark Maton.
Neither family knows Sheley, Lewis said. "As far as we know, we have no idea that there was any acquaintance," she said. "We assume it was just random."
More than 250 miles away from Rock Falls, the bodies of Tom and Jill Estes of Sherwood, Ark., were found Monday behind a gas station in Festus, said Lt. Bill Baker of the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad. The couple had checked into a Comfort Inn in Festus on Friday and were last seen late Sunday. Their dogs were found in the hotel parking lot, unharmed but covered with blood. A memorial fund has been set up in Kilynna Blake's name at Wells Fargo Bank to help pay for funeral costs, Lewis said.
"We're grieving and sad. We love her and miss her," she said, her voice cracking."I'll always remember her as my sister. My younger baby sister that I cared about. I remember her by her being herself."
Contributing: Associated Press