At 29, Christy Keronen had big dreams. The ambitious young woman was was well-loved, dedicated her time to taking care of her elderly father, and hoped to someday start her own cleaning company, her brother said.
So when CJ Keronen heard that his sister, his support system for his whole life with whom he shared a home in Lakewood, Ocean County, died violently at the hands of a man who later took his own life, the devastating news shocked him.
"I've not completely wrapped my head around the situation," CJ Keronen wrote in an email to NBC10 on Thursday, a day after police found his sister dead in the Jackson Township home of a man they identified as 32-year-old Tyree Johnson. Authorities said they believe Johnson killed himself after killing Christy Keronen.
CJ Keronen said he and his sister, who was six years younger than him, spent their whole lives supporting each other, and became even closer after their mother died nine years ago.
"We have been living together, we work together, take care of our elderly father together," CJ Keronen said. "We did everything as a team."
He remembered his sister as a kind woman who was "full of ambition" and well-loved by everyone who crossed her path. "She's the type of person who would give you the shirt off her back," CJ Keronen wrote. "Always thinking of others before herself."
CJ Keronen reported his sister missing to police in Lakewood on Wednesday -- the same day officers in Jackson discovered her body -- after he hadn't seen her since Sunday evening and grew worried. It was unlike Christy not to show up for work or come home at night without a phone call.
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office said a 911 call to police in Holmdel about 7:30 Wednesday morning reporting a man's body hanging from the bucket of a Comcast truck led police to discover Johnson's apparent suicide. When they went to his home in hopes of notifying his family of his death, authorities said, they found Christy Keronen dead of apparent head trauma in the kitchen.
A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said that he could confirm only that Christy Keronen and Johnson knew each other in some capacity.
CJ Keronen said his sister and Johnson were friends, and that his sister had told Johnson numerous times that she was interested only in a platonic friendship with him. "I've overheard her mention to other friends that she would have to cut him out of her life if he couldn't accept that," CJ Keronen wrote in an email.
"I'm still in shock as to what happened," he wrote. "Christy's always had admirers, but never did I think it would come this far."
He posted a heartfelt tribute to his sister on his Facebook page in the wake of her tragic death.
"I lost my sister, my best friend, this weekend," CJ Keronen wrote in the post. "The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was to explain to my father that his baby girl is dead. Words can't even explain what I'm feeling right now.
"I love you Christy Keronen," he ended the post. "May you forever rest in peace."