MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. -- Laniece Ryland knew something was wrong when she hadn't heard from her friend Ashley McDuffie of Mount Vernon in several days and word spread that the young mother had failed to contact her children.
"Ashley was a very well-respected mother who was close to her family," the Queens resident said.
McDuffie, 27, was reported missing Friday, Aug. 19 after she failed to pick up her two children from their grandmother's house in Stamford, Conn. Her body was found a week later dumped in Seton Falls Park in the Bronx, just over the border from Mount Vernon.
Her boyfriend, Jason Meyer of New Rochelle told Mount Vernon police he killed McDuffie at her home and where they could find her body. He faces second-degree murder charges in her strangulation death.
Ryland said the two grew up together on Long Island and talks about the days when they would play basketball, take dance classes and just "hang out."
She added that following her friend's murder, neighbors are stepping forward with allegations of domestic abuse and the fact they heard fighting between the two.
"I wish she had said something about the abuse," she said. "Domestic violence doesn't have to be kept quiet. People need to talk about it, expose it and not put up with it."
Ryland's own mother was the victim of domestic violence -- she was shot nine times by an abusive boyfriend -- but managed to survive and escape her abuser.
"There was no need for her death. It is so senseless, and she leaves behind two wonderful children who have now lost their mother," Ryland added.
The young woman hopes to keep her friend's name alive by talking about domestic violence and letting other women know they don't have to stand for it or hide it.
"It's time to put a stop to this kind of senseless violence," she said. "There is help for domestic violence."
In an effort to help her friend's children and family, Ryland has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her funeral and to help her children in the future. She is also asking for donations of school supplies and other items such as clothes so the children will be ready for school.
A group of McDuffie's friends plans to hold a memorial service for the family and her friends in the near future on Long Island.
"We all need a time and place to grieve and to show our love and support to her children and family," she said.
After attending Meyer's hearing on Monday, Ryland said she was disgusted when he said he was sorry as he walked by the family.
"There's no excuse for what he did and the way he just dumped her body," she said. "I just can't even think about how her body must have looked. It's just too terrible."
To date, she has raised $4,473 of the $20,000 goal. To donate, visit the GoFundMe page here .
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