Mother of slain Highland Park High School graduate Yasemin Uyar gives a touching tribute to the strength and struggles of her daughter

It was a Highland Park High School romance story with a very tragic ending – the death of a beautiful 24-year-old woman, Yasemin Uyar, who doted upon her two-year-old son Sebastian Rios. Sebastian now no longer has a mother and has a father 27-year-old Tyler Rios, who remains in police custody, charged with first-degree kidnapping for the alleged abduction of the toddler Sebastian. Additional criminal charges are pending in the death of Yasemin Uyar, according to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.

Karen Uyar mother of Yasemin and grandmother of Sebastian held a press conference at the Highland Park Police Headquarters on Monday July 12. She recounted the sad tale of how her daughter Yasemin, known as “Yazzi,” HPHS class of 2015 met Chris Rios, HPHS class of 2012, and a wrestling and football star, when they were students at HPHS. They dated on and off, became a couple, and then continued to have an on-and-off relationship for years after graduation, according to Karen Uyar. The post high school years were marked by the joyful birth of their son – and allegedly by the terrifying incidents violence, said Ms. Uyar.

“I want Yazzi to be remembered in our community as a good friend, a great sister, a great aunt and a great mother. I think for the world I want people to remember Yazzi as a person who tried to fight for herself, didn’t always win, she would falter, but in the end had really started to fight for herself,” Ms. Uyar said during the conversation with the media and with Highland Park Police Chief Richard Abrams at her side.

She addressed the media just two days after her daughter’s body was recovered in Monterey,Tennessee following an Amber Alert issued last week for her daughter and her grandson, after the boy failed to show up at daycare and his mother failed to report to work. The boy’s father at the time of the Amber alert was identified as a suspect in their disappearance. Sebastian was found unharmed with his father in a Tennessee motel.

In spite of her grief, Ms. Uyar thanked the outpouring of love and support from the Highland Park community and the the local and state police departments and the FBI for their help, noting the history of domestic violence was “long” and a frustrating cycle.

“What was going to happen was God’s plan, and it happened. I don’t believe anything else could have been done,” she said.

“I want Yasie’s voice to be heard as a strong voice. Just because you’re a victim of a domestic violence doesn’t mean you’re weak,” Karen Uyar said.

A memorial service is being planned for July 23 at 6 p.m. at the Reformed Church of Highland Park on South Second Street. No further details are yet available.

Reach the New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233). Reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), chat with their advocates here or text LOVEIS to 22522.

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