DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The suspect charged in the murder of a 30-year-old Duke graduate student made his initial appearance in court Friday and a judge ruled no bond. Family members now tell CBS 17 that the victim, Angela Risi, knew the suspect.

Stephon Dubose, 30, is charged with murder and attempted murder as a roommate was also injured in the shooting on Worth Street this past Monday. Risi died from a gunshot wound.

Her father Matt called his daughter brilliant.

“People have described her as always lighting up a room, always being so cheerful and encouraging,” Matt Risi said. “[I’m going through] waves of emotion and grief and then you have to pull yourself together to take care of things.”

This was Angela’s second year at Duke and her dad says Durham is exactly where she wanted to be. 

“It was the perfect fit,” her father said. “And I’m just really sad, sad for her, that her talent and her life was cut short and she wasn’t able to share her talent, her art.”

He said his daughter was friends with Dubose and even helped Angela while she was in the process of moving into the Worth Street home. Matt said he doesn’t know what the motive could’ve been.

“My wife met him, knew him as Jimmy, although his real name is Stephen,” Matt Risi said. “Angela presented him on a couple occasions as a friend and part of the crowd she hung out with. Patty, my wife, thought that he was a nice enough guy and actually assisted Angela with her move a little bit. We had no idea. … Who would do that?”

CBS 17 also spoke with Angela’s mentor and former dance teacher in Chicago. Chicago Movement Collective founder Ethan Kirschbaum said she showed up every day and trained with them for over a year before she left for North Carolina to pursue her graduate degree at Duke.

(Courtesy Ethan Kirschbaum)
(Courtesy Ethan Kirschbaum)

“She got us through COVID,” Kirschbaum said. “We were supposed to get dancers through Covid. But she really got my faculty and our community through because she was such a constant presence of light and positivity.”

Angela had joined the dance studio’s scholarship program. Kirschbaum held a moment of silence for her on Thursday during a ballet class, which Angela helped start.

“To look at this room full of dancers that are in the position she just was in and to think that she’s no longer able to pursue that is heartbreaking,” he said.

Angela worked for five years at the University of Chicago in the humanities department. Risi’s father said she was talented in so many areas including dance and circus arts while being a scholar in college at San Diego State. She excelled in English literature and psychology.   

Despite what happened, Matt Risi said he doesn’t feel hatred for Dubose and he trusts the criminal justice system. 

The family is headed to Durham for the next week and a GoFundMe page is set up to help cover the cost of getting Angela back home to San Diego. The family will donate the majority of her belongings to a local charity and plans to meet some of the people in her program at Duke.

So far, Durham police still have not identified the other victim.