Balloon release held to celebrate Chantay Blankinship's birthday
LAKE BROWNWOOD, Texas - Dozens of people gathered Sunday at the gravesite of a murdered Lake Brownwood woman on what would've been her 27th birthday.
"Thank you, thank you all for being here with us and just through everything," said Chantay Blakinship's mother Catherine McDaniel. "It means everything to us."
Blankinship was killed in May of 2016 by her former neighbor 21-year-old Ryan Riggs, according to the Brown County Sheriff's Office.
On Sunday, several people that knew her arrived to Pleasant Valley Cemetery with balloons in hand to celebrate Blankinship's birthday.
"Y'all have been with us and beside us since this happened," said her stepfather Steven McDaniel. "And words can't describe our gratitude."
After 18 months without a lead in the case, deputies arrested Riggs last week and charged him with capital murder. Sheriff Vance Hill said Riggs confessed to killing Blankinship to his church congregation and to law enforcement.
The break in the year-and-a-half old murder case happened two weeks ago when the sheriff's office released a computerized sketch of Rigg using his DNA.
Riggs and Blankinship both attended the North Lake Community Church together.
"This has been a week of so many emotions for all of us," said Pastor Ron Keener. "And as the pastor of both families it has been doubly difficult."
Hill said that Riggs sexually assaulted Blankinship and used a lawn mower blade to killer her.
But her family said Sunday's focus was on her life.
Several people got choked up sharing stories of Blankinship, including how dedicated she was to her church.
Catherine McDaniel said her daughter can now rest in peace knowing Riggs is in jail.
He remains in jail with no bond, according to the Brown County Jail's website.