For the first time the family of a bank teller killed in Chicago's River North neighborhood is opening up about the tragic loss ahead of a vigil that will honor her memory.
Jessica Vilaythong, 24, died when a stranger brutally attacked her with a knife at a Chase bank location earlier this year.
“I don’t know how to describe how hurt it is,” said Phuong Le, the woman's aunt.
It’s been 49 days since Vilaythong was killed. Her family will hold a special memorial to honor her life Tuesday night at a Buddhist temple on the city’s North Side.
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“She was a great, great child in my family, so smart,” said Le. “She really active, she really lovely—help to the people.”
40 monks from across the country will be in town to pray for Vilaythong’s family and other victims of violence at the ceremony, according to family.
“The Buddha said that violence can not stop violence, anger can not stop anger,” said Minh-Quang Sakya of Thien Tuong Temple. “Only love and kindness, only understanding can stop violence.”
Vilaythong and her family are deeply devoted to their Buddhist faith, which has been a source of comfort in recent weeks.
“She had dreams to help the Vietnamese people and to do other things, but the evil of society robbed her dream,” said Le.
The 24-year-old was stabbed to death in September while working at a Chase bank in River North. The man charged with her murder was previously arrested for attacking two women with a hammer in 2014. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
“I really wished the City of Chicago would do something because she passed away with a criminal being released around Chicago," Le said.
While family and friends continue to wait for the case to move through the criminal justice system, they hope her soul can rest in peace and hope another family won’t have to experience their heartbreak.
“I really wish our family is the last family to get a loss,” said Le. “I don’t want any other family to have a loss like us—it’s so terrible.”
The vigil starts at 7 p.m. at Quang Minh Temple on Damen Avenue. As for the man charged, he's being held on no bond. His next court hearing is scheduled for November.