The death of a promising young Liverpool woman sparked outrage across Central New York. Many people who didn't even know Jenni-Lyn Watson were touched by her sudden and tragic death. Now, her family is setting up a memorial fund as a way to celebrate her life.
The Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Fund will create opportunities for local children and teens who love to dance but can't afford specialized training. The Central New York Community Foundation will manage the fund.
Jenni-Lyn was just 20-years-old when she disappeared from her Liverpool home while on college break for Thanksgiving. Her former boyfriend now admits to killing her. In a surprise move at this arraignment Tuesday, Steven Pieper pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder in Watson's death, admitting he strangled and suffocated her on November 19th. Her lifeless body was later found November 27th in Clay Town Park after a week-long search and national media attention.
Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says Pieper confessed to the crime during his grand jury testimony. Pieper's attorney says his client didn't want to put his family or the Watson family through the pain of a trial, but Fitzpatrick says it was the "mountain of evidence" that forced him to confess.
Before her untimely death, Jenni-Lyn spent countless hours practicing her true passion, dance. She was studying dance at Mercyhurst College, and had participated in many local productions, including The Nutcracker with the Syracuse Symphony and Adventures of Rudolph sponsored by the Syracuse Cultural Resources.
Overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of support they received following her tragic death, Jenni-Lyn's family turned to a memorial fund as a way to keep their daughter's memory alive.
"We should all be so lucky to find half of the passion for something in our lives like Jenni-Lyn had for dance," said Jackie Watson, Jenni-Lyn's mother. "We want to use this fund to ensure that financial barriers don't stop other little girls from achieving their dreams."
The Watson family hopes to honor their daughter's love of Central New York and the arts by establishing this fund to support other local dance students.
"This is how Jenni-Lyn would have wanted to be remembered - by helping those in our region who have a love for dance but don't have the same opportunities she did to attend formal arts schooling," said Jackie. "Jenni-Lyn was an extraordinary, nurturing girl who cared strongly for those around her. This fund will help us carry on her love for people, dance and life."
Click here to donate to the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Fund.
You can also send a check payable to the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Fund and send it to the Central New York Community Foundation, 431 East Fayette Street, Suite 100 Syracuse, NY 13202.
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