Family, friends gather for balloon release in memory of homicide victim

JACKSON, Tenn. — A loving mother, a daughter and a friend. Those are just a few ways Darlene Echols remembers her niece Amanda Northern.

“For a minute, I couldn’t breathe. I had to stop and come to reality with myself to realize I had heard this news,” Echols said.

Police found Northern dead in her apartment earlier this week and her two children missing.

The children were eventually found safe in Chattanooga, but Echols says the tragic loss of her loved one leaves her family broken.

“Because this is really hard on our family, we are trying to get through this,” she said.

With only memories to hold onto, friends and family gathered Friday for a balloon release.

Amanda’s mother, Alicia Hassell, says it’s a way to remember her daughter.

“I’m here in my body, but I’m not here because I have to bury my daughter,” she said.

Amanda’s sister Tequila Barnes says she wants to prevent other families from feeling this type of pain.

“It really hit me the hardest, but I can only keep strong for my family,” she said.

As police search for answers, Amanda’s family searches for peace.

“Just keep us all in your prayers,” Hassell said.

Northern’s family has set up a GoFundMe page for help with funeral costs and support of her two children.

Northern’s ex-boyfriend Keon Stewart is being questioned in her death.

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