Friends and former colleagues of 23-year-old recent Art Institute of Philadelphia graduate Laura Araujo say she was a kindhearted individual with a passion for education and serving others.
"She was an amazing person; a very kind soul," Araujo's friend Neelam said.
Neelam met Araujo in late 2011. Araujo was then rooming with one of Neelam's friends.
Over the course of their six-month friendship, Neelam says she spent many days talking with Araujo about exploring the world and all of the many possibilities that laid before her.
"She was one of my most cherished friends when I came to the U.S. We would sit in the park and chat about the world and philosophies for the longest times," she said.
"She was a very promising lady. I'm not sure what to think right now. I'm still trying to come to terms with it."
Araujo's body was discovered in front of an abandoned house on the 2200 block of North 3rd Street in the Kensington section of the city on Monday. Police say she had been beaten and strangled. She was found with her hands and feet bound, and her body had been put in a trash bag, wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a duffel bag.
Former colleagues say they cannot begin to imagine why the young grad became the victim of such a brutal crime.
According to a profile on LinkedIn, Araujo had a passion for poverty alleviation, education, and economic empowerment. Her support for several of social causes was evident by her involvement in a number of community organizations.
Araujo was born and raised in New York City, but she lived with family in Oklahoma for several years. While in Oklahoma, she volunteered for the Bethel Foundation, a faith-based organization dedicated to helping single mothers.
Bethel Foundation founder Lynda Powell said she was shocked to learn of Araujo's death.
"When I heard this I was stunned because she was the sweetest, kindest young lady that had a heart for single mothers and their children," Powell said. "She was just a beautiful young lady. I remember thinking of how young she was and how big her heart was."
Araujo previously worked as a tutor teaching English as a second language for the Providence Center here in Philadelphia, and as a Youth/Christian outreach representative for the discipleship training program Master's Commission of Atlanta.
She also served as an intern for Philadelphia Style Magazine from the end of September to the end of November, 2013. A spokesman for the publication remembered Araujo as a hard worker who contributed to the success of several large sales and marketing events.
"She was really a great part of the team. She was very eager to learn, very punctual; she had a real thirst for learning," a spokesman said. "So, for us, this is a great loss and a tragedy."
The magazine tweeted condolences to Araujo's friends and family early Wednesday:
Our thoughts are with Laura Araujo's family & friends at this time. We were lucky to have her as an intern during our late fall semester.
— Philly Style Mag (@phillystylezine) July 16, 2014
A Director at the Master's Commission of Atlanta, Jordan Marcon, took to Facebook to express his sympathy:
Philadelphia police say they now have a person of interest in custody in connection to Araujo's murder.