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Walk And Run This Weekend To Honor Pitt Student Alina Sheykhet 4 Years After Her Murder

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Friday marks four years since a University of Pittsburgh student was brutally murdered in her apartment in Oakland.

Alina Sheykhet's parents have been pushing to get legislation passed that would protect victims of domestic violence since the 20-year-old's death.

"It seems like it was only yesterday. And at some point, it feels like it's been forever," her mother Elly Sheykhet said.

Alina Sheykhet's gravesite is adorned with colorful flowers and her picture is engraved on her headstone. It is a place her parents visit many times a week. While the grieving never goes away, Alina Sheykhet's mom said it's different now.

"We learn to express our grief not through the pain but through love to Alina," the mother said.

Elly Sheykhet said she feels her daughter's presence daily. It's something that's helped her cope.

"Even though she's passed on, she didn't pass away. She's still here with me," Elly Sheykhet said.

"Every parent knows it's an empty nest when they send their kids off to college. For us, this empty nest will be forever," said Alina's father Yan Sheykhet.

Elly and Yan found Alina unresponsive in the second-floor bedroom of her apartment on Cable Place in Oakland on Oct. 8, 2017. They were supposed to pick her up and head to an event, but when she didn't respond to calls and texts, they knew something wasn't right, so they went upstairs and tried to open her bedroom door.

"I tried to open the door and it didn't open so I pushed hard, broke the door and that's it. I saw Alina on the floor," Yan Sheykhet said.

Alina Sheykhet was bludgeoned to death. The murder weapons were a claw hammer and two knives from Alina's basement and kitchen. The suspect was her ex-boyfriend Matthew Darby.

Darby was arrested in South Carolina a month later after running from police. The following year, Darby pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Alina's parents never met Darby and didn't realize what was going on between them until just days before her death.

"At the courthouse on Oct. 5, three days before, she started telling me how bad he treated her. I couldn't believe it," Elly Sheykhet said.

The judge granted Alina Sheykhet a protection from abuse order, but it didn't do any good.

"When she filed a PFA, I thought that was it. She's fine. That guy is never going to come close to her. That was a big mistake," Yan Sheykhet said.

That's why her parents have been pushing for change ever since. State Representative of the 45th Legislative District Anita Kulik is the main sponsor behind Alina's Law.

"With electronic monitoring, the victim would have a fighting chance to get to safety, someplace safe, know the defendant is in the vicinity, be able to call police, call a friend, somebody to alert the situation," Kulik said.

Right now, the bill is stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, but Kulik said other legislators are now trying to help.

"Senator Jay Costa has introduced a companion bill in the State Senate. I'm hoping he can get a vote on the bill and then that bill would be sent over to the House," said Kulik.

"If we could save at least one life, it would be worth it so her death didn't go in vain," said Elly Sheykhet.

It's a mission and a calling the Sheykhets have been pushing for all these years, to try to get past the grief with the goal of trying to help others.

"She taught me how to light the candle instead of cursing the darkness," Elly Sheykhet said.

The Sheykhets created a charitable organization, Alina's Light, to honor their daughter's life. On Saturday, the second annual Alina's Light Walk and Run for Love will take place at Settlers Cabin Park.

The event will honor Alina Sheykhet and other victims of domestic violence. Kulik and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman are expected to attend.

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