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Remembering Riley Whitelaw: Mother of teenager allegedly killed by Walgreens co-worker says Riley impacted countless lives

Riley Whitelaw's mom describes teen who was allegedly killed by Walgreens co-worker
Riley Whitelaw's mom describes teen who was allegedly killed by Walgreens co-worker 05:09

Riley Whitelaw, 17, is described as a compassionate, driven, and positive person. Her vibrant life was cut short on June 11 while working at a Walgreens in Colorado Springs. 

Police accuse another Walgreens employee — a 28-year-old man — of stabbing her to death in the store's breakroom while the store was open. Police say Riley complained to management about the co-worker before, and asked to work different shifts than him, but she was allegedly made to work with him anyway. 


For the first time, Riley's mother, Courtenay Whitelaw, is speaking publicly about her beloved daughter, saying she wants Riley to be remembered as the inspiration that she was to her community, not by how she was taken from it. 

"Riley was a kind, loving, empathetic human being, and I've told her classmates please carry that forward in honor of her," Courtenay said.

Courtenay says Riley would have been a senior at Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs this year. She says Riley was a straight-A student in all subjects, who was interested in studying genetics in college. 

Riley was also artistic — she loved to draw, play guitar, and dance in the color guard for her school's marching band. She had also just been selected to be the team's co-captain this year.

"Anything Riley ever has taken on, she's always got both feet in," Courtenay said. "A couple of years ago, she decided, 'I want to do color guard,' and at first, I was like, 'okay, if you are anything like your mother, your mother has no rhythm,' so, I was like, 'oh, this is going to be interesting.' She was terrible at first because she'd never done it before, but she was determined, and would practice in the summer months before the season started... and her improvement in just a year was amazing, and she was determined with it, and was determined to prove that she was good."

Her mom says above all else, she was caring.

"We need more Rileys in the world," Courtenay said. 

Courtenay Whitelaw

Courtenay carries Riley's kind spirit everywhere she goes. Just six months before Riley's death, she convinced her mom to get a matching tattoo with her. The design was drawn uniquely by Riley herself. 

 "Riley was determined to get a tattoo, and for two years she kept asking, and I kept saying no, and she even did a PowerPoint presentation as to why she should get a tattoo and I kind of just would say 'no,' and I would hope that she would forget, and she never forgot, and she came to me one night and said, 'how about we get a tattoo together?' And she had drawn it, and we did it this December," Courtenay recalled. "It was kind of her gift for me forever."

Now Riley's family is setting up a scholarship fund in her memory, with the goal of someone in her graduating class to be the first recipient. 

"It will hopefully continue to grant scholarships to other kids like Riley... because in our eyes that's what Riley would want, she would not want negative to outweigh the positive," her mother said. "Every day I get up and out of bed, because Riley would expect it of me... so, every breath I take is very much for Riley, and trying to make her proud, and trying to make sure that she's not forgotten in all of this, and that she made an impact, and will continue to make an impact."

The Riley I. Whitelaw Memorial Scholarship Fund has just been established as an official nonprofit. All donations are sent directly to the scholarship fund and are tax deductible. Click here, if you'd like to donate. 

"All donations are going to be used for scholarship purposes, and perhaps one day, if the money is there, for genetic research, which is something Riley was interested in (especially DNA analysis)," her mother said. "We believe those who apply for these scholarships should be in good standing academically, be involved in school and community activities, and have a hard work ethic. They must also demonstrate the same qualities that Riley has in her kind, empathetic nature. We will have an application process, and are working to develop that."


Riley had been working a part-time job at Walgreens for almost a year and a half when she was killed this summer. Her body was discovered by other Walgreens employees in the store's breakroom.  

Police accuse Joshua Johnson, 28, of killing her. He's charged with first-degree murder and is in jail without bond. 

"I just want her back, and I don't get her back," Courtenay said. "I hope Riley gets justice. She deserves that."

Walgreens issued this written statement to CBS Colorado:

"We are deeply saddened and horrified by this crime, and continue to extend our condolences, thoughts and prayers to Riley's family and loved ones. We have been working closely with authorities in their investigation, conducting a thorough internal review and supporting our team members during this very difficult time. The safety of our customers and team members is our highest priority, and we take this obligation very seriously."

Since that tragic day, Courtenay has received several letters from her daughter's customers and community members she's never met, telling her what an impact Riley made in their lives.

"Letters from customers that maybe just had a brief encounter, but a meaningful encounter, with Riley, and I even had a woman that had a painting... she ended up donating the proceeds that she made from the painting... then she brought me a print of it, and she just said, 'your daughter really touched me, and I just had that one conversation with her,'" Courtenay recalled. 

Courtenay says she'll be forever proud of her daughter's enthusiasm and empathy, and she's determined to ensure that legacy lives on. 

"As a parent, I'm proud of that," she said. "Because how many 17-year-olds have that much of an imprint on people this early?"

UPDATE: Colorado Springs man accused of killing 17-year-old coworker after allegedly asking to change shifts

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