Vigil Held for Wheeling Island Murder Victim

Photo by Casey Junkins Friends of Rayna Shae Vaughan struggle to hold back tears during a Friday vigil service outside the Wheeling Island home where police officers found her dead from blunt force trauma to the head earlier this week.

WHEELING — Friends of Rayna Shae Vaughan struggled to hold back tears during a Friday evening vigil service outside her Wheeling Island home, inside which police believe someone murdered her with a blow to the head earlier this week.

“She had only lived here for like five days,” Navi Kelly said of Vaughan. “She was such an amazing person. She changed everything she touched for the better.”

Wednesday, Wheeling Police Department officers responded to the 309 S. Wabash St. home to conduct a welfare check. After hearing the cries of a 2-year-old girl inside, officers entered the home. Once inside, officers found the 21-year-old Vaughan dead, with the child in the adjacent room.

Thursday, the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide resulting from blunt force trauma to the head.

The investigation continues.

“She had no enemies. I can’t imagine who would have wanted to hurt her,” Kelly said of her friend.

Leah Mick, YoungLives coordinator for Ohio Valley Young Life, attended the memorial. She said Vaughan participated in the program, which assists and supports young mothers.

“Her young daughter has the same smile that she does,” Mick said. “The only thing that gives us purpose right now is to help that little girl know how wonderful her mother was.”

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said Thursday it is “premature” to name suspects or persons of interest in the death. He declined to say if there were signs of forced entry to the home.

Schwertfeger also said police did not know the motive for the killing, but said he believes Vaughan knew her assailant or assailants. He said officials with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources are now caring for the child.

Kelly said she believed Vaughan lived in the Wheeling area for about two and a half years. Prior to that, Vaughan lived in Weirton, Kelly said.

“She was my very best friend,” Kelly said before turning her head to the shoulder of her mother standing nearby.

Wheeling resident Andrew Keane also spoke at the vigil.

“It’s hard to believe something like this could happen to such a sweet person,” he said. “A lot of people wanted to see her succeed. And everything she did was for her little girl.”


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