Julissa's Story: More Than Just A Headline

Craigslist Murder Victim, 25, Was On Course To Help Others

Julissa Brisman, the doe-eyed beauty whose short and troubled life was so brutally snuffed out in a Boston hotel room, would have celebrated her 26th birthday on April 24.

"You know, this is somebody, you know, who was blossoming," says Jack Bennett. "She was growing and becoming, you know, who she wanted to be I think."

Julissa was supposed to be in Jack Bennett's class at the City College of New York, where she was training to become a substance abuse counselor.

"I think that she wanted a better life," he says. "Where she could begin to feel good about who she was and what she was doing. And she was well on her way."

After years of struggling with a drinking problem, Julissa had set her life back on course, says classmate Robert Turner. "She was very courageous. She was very vulnerable, and she was a very caring."

Julissa intended to use her painful past to help others. And she was just a few credits short of getting her certification.

"She really impressed me," says Bennett. "She was of that, you know, that bootstrap mentality, w here she was picking herself up by her own bootstraps."

That tough mentality began in a working class neighborhood in New York City. The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Julissa Brisman longed for something more.

"She was young, she was beautiful. She was a model. She was an actress," her cousin, Jennie Guzman told reporters after Julissa's wake.

"If she walked into a room, what would people think when they first saw her?" CBS News correspondent Daniel Sieberg asks.

"I thought she, you know, she was striking," Bennett replies. "She was an attractive young girl. She wouldn't be somebody that would just blend into a crowd. She'd stand out.

But since her murder, a seedier side of Julissa's life has grabbed the headlines. Her friends are fuming that her reputation is being trashed.

"She wasn't about prostitution," says Turner. "She was about helping other people. She was about contributing. She was a human being."

Her friends say she was working as a way to help make ends meet. "I just think that she had a tough time, you know, gettin' the bills paid," says Bennett.

And so Julissa made the fateful decision to travel to Boston to meet a client - a decision that would bring her fame, sadly not the kind she had dreamed of.

Do they feel her story is being lost?

"Absolutely. You know, and it's one of the things that really concern me," says Bennett. "You know, I mean, it's very easy to sensationalize something like this. But it really does a disservice to Julissa and I'm sure her family. It's just, you know, it's just such a small slice of who she was."

In time, the girl who wrote on her MySpace page "finally getting a hold of this wonderful thing we call LIFE" will fade from the headlines. And those who knew and loved Julissa Brisman will be left alone in their grief.

Her mother Carmen, too bereft to speak, released a statement:

"The feeling of losing my daughter in this way and the pain she must have felt will haunt me for the rest of my life. She won't live to see her dreams. We will hold Julissa in our hearts every day."

"It's such a waste," says Turner. "Here was a person trying to give back and help others and she lost her life so young. I guess it's kind of changed us all a little bit."

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