HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. — Karen Uyar stood in a packed church in her hometown of Highland Park, New Jersey Friday evening, determined to honor the life of her slain daughter Yasmin with a message of hope.
“She took all the pain, all the issues that she was going through and she tried to transform them into a beautiful life,” said Uyar. “She tried to share that life we people who were going through the same issues that she was going through.
Police say 27-year old Tyler Rios abducted both Yasemin and their 2-year old son earlier this month from Yasemin’s apartment in Rahway and then fled south. The FBI caught Rios – with their son – in Tennessee and he later led investigators to a nearby wooded area where they found Yasemin’s body.
Rios previously spent time in jail for strangling Yasemin during their tumultuous relationship.
But inside the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where Yasemin grew up, the focus was not on Rios but on the countless ways Yasemin touched so many lives.
“This is a moment of connection,” said Yasemin’s best friend Jackie. “This is a moment of reflection and celebration for Yasemin. Let’s talk about Yasemin: she mattered, she matters, she was best friend and she was in my family.”
Speaking outside the church after the memorial service, Karen made it clear she believes society in general needs to do more for domestic violence victims.
“The system definitely has to be changed,” she said. “Too many times, people that are assaulted in domestic violence situations are either just not taken seriously, or when they make a report, they’re made to feel belittled or it’s not as big a deal as they’re making it out to be. There just needs to be reform and there needs to be reform for repeat offenders.”
To Uyar’s point, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation elevating strangulation assault into a second degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison last week, citing Uyar’s murder.
“The murder of Yasemin Uyar by a repeat domestic abuser was horrific and appalling,” said Murphy. “Research has shown that strangulation is often one of the strongest red flags for predicting future homicides of victims of domestic violence. This legislation recognizes the seriousness of strangulation assault and gives us the tools necessary to hold people accountable for their actions.”
The little boy at the center of this story is now going to grow up without a mother or father and will be raised by his grandmother. But he’ll have the support of an entire community. A Gofundme has been set up for the family and for that little boy.