The grieving parents of a college student found fatally shot in her Boston apartment Tuesday focused on the bright side of their daughter's life as police tried to nail down whether the young woman was targeted by her killer or the victim of a random crime.
Rebecca Payne, a 22-year-old senior and Connecticut native studying to become an athletic trainer, was found by a building manager fatally shot in her chest and legs inside her apartment complex in the Mission Hill section of Boston, the Boston Police Department confirmed Wednesday after receiving preliminary autopsy results that confirmed she had died of multiple gunshots.
In a statement released late Wednesday, Nicholas and Virginia Payne described their daughter as a student leader who was loved by the people around her. "We would like to remember Rebecca as someone always smiling, never worrying about this, not worth worrying about," the student's parents said.
The New Milford, Conn., native was loyal to the Yankees despite going to college in Boston surrounded by Red Sox fans. She was also true to "her British roots," her parents said, as a fan of an English football club. "On her bedroom wall hangs the poster for the Liverpool Football Club, with its anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'"
Police have not yet determined whether Payne's killer or killers knew her or whether the college senior was randomly targeted. "We're hoping that as the hours develop, we'll be able to discover the answer to that," Boston Police Department spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll told ABC News.
One detail that might suggest the crime was not random was the absence of any obvious forced entry into the apartment, which is located in an off-campus building that houses many students from Boston's various colleges and universities. The door of the apartment was open when the woman's body was discovered Tuesday morning around 6:50 a.m., police said.
Some of Payne's neighbors reported to police that they may have heard gunshots during the night between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., but no one called 911 and authorities have yet to nail down exactly when the shots rang out. "We received numerous witness reports indicating they heard gunshots sometime in the early hours, but they did not contact police," she said.
One witness also reported seeing a black van driving away from the apartment building.
Police processed Payne's apartment, which Driscoll said she shared with at least one roommate, as a crime scene. They also towed Payne's Mini Cooper from the apartment complex parking lot.
In a letter to the university community, Northeastern President Joseph Aoun offered sympathy to Payne's family and friends.
"Those among us who knew her best -- students, faculty and staff -- say Becca was dedicated to her studies, excited about her successful and challenging co-op jobs, and passionate about causes dear to her heart," Auon wrote.
Payne served on the university's dean's council, was involved with a campus ministry and recently worked with children as a summer camp counselor, according to Auon.
"Becca epitomized all that is best about Northeastern University students," he wrote. "Having her taken so suddenly leaves a hole that will never be filled."
On her MySpace page, Payne described herself as a "slightly eccentric/slightly bitter/mostly optimistic" college student whose professional goal was to help injured athletes back to peak physical shape.