A man who dated the Ohio State University student who was killed by her boyfriend in an apparent murder-suicide spoke out to PEOPLE about the woman he called his “one true love.”
Heather Campbell and Clay Caruso were together for eight years before breaking up in 2016. Now, Caruso says he regrets the breakup after learning Campbell was fatally shot by her new boyfriend, Kyle Lafferty, over the weekend.
“The news crushed me and I didn’t know how I’d be able to handle it,” Caruso, 21, tells PEOPLE. “I wished I could do something to protect her. I just wish I hadn’t let her go.”
Authorities arrived at Campbell’s Columbus apartment on Olentangy River Road around 2:33 a.m Sunday to find Lafferty, 25, and the 22-year-old Campbell both dead with gunshot wounds. Investigators believe Lafferty shot Campbell before turning the gun on himself.
A Columbus Police Department spokesperson told PEOPLE that the killings were not random and likely stemmed from a domestic incident.
“He was a current boyfriend or potentially going to be an ex-boyfriend,” the spokesperson said.
Caruso says that although Campbell rarely talked to him about Lafferty, he heard from mutual friends that the man, a marine, was “depressed.” He adds that Lafferty, a New Jersey native, would leave for work for weeks and had very few friends in the area.
“Her good friends and people who were really close to her said he was depressed but they would never have imagined this,” Caruso tells PEOPLE. “They would’ve done something to stop it.”
Caruso says he and Campbell began dating when they were just 12 years old and, following a lengthy on-again, off-again relationship, they broke up in 2016 after Campbell went into the Navy.
“We just gave each other time to figure out what makes you happy,” he says of the breakup. “No matter where we were in our relationship — if we were together or not — if anything went wrong with me, she was always there for me, no matter what.”
Campbell’s grandmother told the Columbus Dispatch that Campbell and Lafferty had just rented the apartment together after dating for about eight months.
“She seemed like she adored him and he seemed to adore her,” the grandmother said, according to the paper. “He’d been here and met most of the family. Everyone liked him a lot. He had a really good job. They seemed to be making plans for the future.”
In an emotional 911 call, Campbell’s best friend frantically told the dispatcher that she had found Lafferty and Campbell dead — “I just walked into my best friend’s apartment and her and her boyfriend are laying on the kitchen floor dead and bleeding,” the neighbor told the dispatcher, according to The Lantern.
Now, in the wake of the gruesome discovery, Caruso remembers Campell as “energetic and fun.”
“She was always happy. She was considered a best friend by probably thousands of people,” Caruso adds. “If we went anywhere and met new people, she connected with any sort of person.”
As news of Campbell’s death consumes headlines, a friend of the woman describes Campbell as “a beautiful soul.”
“She didn’t know a stranger, only people she hadn’t met,” Megan Cuevas tells PEOPLE. “She would not want to be remembered as a victim, but as one that chose the higher ground, the righteous path, and loved everyone.”
A funeral for Campbell will be held on Saturday, Caruso says, and her family has set up a You Caring fundraiser to cover the costs of the service.