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Blankinship's family says they can begin healing after suspect's arrest

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LAKE BROWNWOOD, Texas - Chantay Blankinship's family hopes to find peace as they close one chapter of their lives and move on to another now that her accused killer is sitting inside the Brown County Jail.

Ryan Riggs, 21, confessed to law enforcement and his church that he killed the 25-year-old in May of 2016 and dumped her body five miles from her Lake Brownwood home, according to the Brown County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Vance Hill said Riggs sexually assaulted Blankinship and beat her using a lawn mower blade.

Blankinship and Riggs were both neighbors at one point and attended church together, according to her mother Catherine McDaniel.

"When Scott Bird said we got him, we just lost it," Steven McDaniel, Blankinship's stepfather, said on Thursday standing by her gravesite.

Sgt. Bird was the Brown County Sheriff's Office lead investigator on the Blankinship murder case that took a year and a half to solve.

"What did she do to you for you to take her life?" Catherine asked of Riggs' intentions.

"Why did you make her suffer? Why did you do the horrible, horrible, horrible things that you did to her?" Steven said.

Blankinship's parents said they never suspected Riggs was the killer until Brown County law enforcement released a computer-generated sketch based on DNA last week.

"He's running around here and no one suspected it," Steven said.

Catherine added, "Nobody. He's shaking the preacher's hand and going to church."

Eighteen months since her daughter's death, Catherine still misses listening to Blankinship's voice. But she said the arrest will help her family heal from the loss.

"We're just glad this is over on this part. That's our biggest thing is that I'm glad he's behind bars," Catherine McDaniel said.

Blankinship's family will be holding a balloon release Sunday at her gravesite at Pleasant Valley Cemetery to celebrate what would've been her 27th birthday.

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