GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — On Saturday, it looked like a typical morning at Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with dozens of people sparring.
However, one face was missing from the mats: 29-year-old Cassia Renee DuVal. Many called her Renee.
“Renee was the nicest person in the world and no matter what happened during your day, she was always here to make people laugh,” said her friend Zachariah Austin.
She was seven months pregnant and a regular at Gracie’s.
“She was a very creative person and she liked to express herself and jiu-jitsu is one of the ways she liked to do that,” said Austin.
Last month, authorities found Renee dead in a crashed car along Pikeville-Princeton outside of Goldsboro.
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office ruled her death a homicide.
Deputies later arrested her boyfriend, 33-year-old James Jones Jr. He’s now charged with DuVal and her unborn child’s murder.
“Any time something like this happens, it’s terrible, you know any time anybody passes, but with her age and everything around it, it does add a little more to it,” said her friend Steven Thigpen.
The jiu-jitsu community is honoring her the best way they know.
“I felt like it was something she’d want to see, everybody doing something she loved and enjoyed doing, remembering her, so it was important for me,” said Thigpen.
They said they’ll remember her silly, positive and kind nature every time they take to the mat.
“If your goal in life is to change someone’s life, Renee really did that to a lot of people,” said Austin.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help with funeral expenses.
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