With one younger and two older brothers, Kayla Williams was accustomed to defending herself. She often won playful household wrestling matches against them. She learned early to declare "Amine" ("mine") while wrapped in her favorite zebra-printed blanket or while grabbing a piece of food off the counter before her mother finished cooking.
Before starting home-schooled classwork more than a year ago, Kayla, 17, often took a stand against bullies to protect her peers. She enjoyed math and writing classes, and kept a daily journal.
At home in Hallsville, Texas, she helped her mother make dinner and often snuggled with her in bed. "The one thing I miss the most is just laying in bed and talking. We would just lay there and talk the 'mother-daughter talk,'" her mother, Clara Williams, told msnbc.
Kayla planned to work at her brother's tattoo shop when she completed her schooling this spring. Her mother envisioned Kayla eventually becoming a veterinarian because of her passion for animals.
"She saw the good in everybody," her mother said, "even when there was no good sometimes."
Kayla was fatally shot on Oct. 5, 2013 at a residence in Kilgore, Texas. Police arrested a 22-year-old man, who is awaiting his court appearance, in connection to the murder.