Family of slain, pregnant teen holds memorial one year later

Teen's mom urges women in abusive relationships to speak up


SAN ANTONIO – Family members and friends of Dawanna Thomas gathered Sunday afternoon under the bridge at Salado Creek, where they held a balloon memorial for her.

Thomas was pregnant when she was found dead a year ago.

Thomas' mother and father spoke about losing their daughter, who was 18 years old when she was killed.

Tear Bedford, said she knew right away that her daughter's boyfriend, Courtney Velasquez, was not a good influence on their daughter.

"I told my daughter that he was a bad person, but (you) can't tell a teenager anything," Bedford said. "(You) have to let them find out, just like my mom had to let me find my way."

Velasquez is facing capitol murder charges in Thomas' slaying.

Thomas' father, Arnold Ross, said the man who allegedly murdered his daughter attempted to reach out to the family.

"He had reached out and talked to me, but just breaking down, saying he's going to tell the truth," Ross said. "I know he hurt (her). (I can) hear it in his voice, but all that's too late." 

On Valentine's Day, along the banks of Salado Creek, Thomas' family released balloons to remember her.

Thomas was four months pregnant when she was drowned and burned on Valentine's Day.

"God have mercy on his soul," said Bedford when asked what she would say to her daughter's killer. 

Thomas' mother also issued a warning to other women who might be in an abusive relationship.

"Don't be afraid to speak up when a man is hitting you, or whoever's abusing you," Bedford said.

Velasquez's murder charge carries the potential for the death penalty.

Bedford and Ross said this has been the hardest year of their lives and that words can't describe the loss of their daughter, knowing that she suffered.