Kaylyn Whitaker, 20, died Oct. 31, 2014, in what authorities initially investigated as a suicide
When Kaylyn Whitaker met Connor Scott during her senior year in high school, their bond was “pretty instant,” recalls a friend.
“He was sweet,” says Elizabeth Grassick, Kaylyn’s close pal since junior high and her co-worker at the Green Acres Dairy Bar in Terre Haute, Indiana. “He was good to Kaylyn. He took Kaylyn out on a lot of dates, spent money on Kaylyn. … They were in love, for sure.”
Kaylyn’s mother, Leslie Roberts, observed the same thing. “Kaylyn loved Connor,” Roberts says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “And Connor adored her, he really did. I could tell by the way he looked at her.”
Fifteen months after Kaylyn’s high school graduation, she had an engagement ring and had settled with Connor into the basement of his parents’ home in Martinsville, Illinois.
It was there, on the morning of October 31, 2014, that Connor told police Kaylyn used a gun to kill herself.
Nothing in Kaylyn’s past had pointed toward the tragedy, say her disbelieving parents.
Kaylyn “was definitely a high-spirited, life-loving person,” with an artistic streak and a love for stray animals and country music, says her mom. And though Roberts raised concerns about the acceleration of Kaylyn’s move-in with her fiancée, “if she had her mind set on something, she did it,” she says.
But the shock of Kaylyn’s death instantly revived the red flags in the young couple’s relationship.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
In one of their last times together, Grassick says she and Kaylyn were at Grassick’s house, with Kaylyn’s phone in another room as Kaylyn showered, and Connor “was blowing up my phone,” she recalls. When Kaylyn finally emerged, her own phone was loaded with missed calls and voicemails from Connor. “I was like, ‘oh my god, that’s really obsessive,” says Grassick.
“He would continually check on her, making sure she was doing what she said she was,” says Roberts. “He didn’t like her being with her friends.”
Connor’s controlling behavior caused the pair to briefly break up. But by the time he proposed, Kaylyn believed it had all been resolved.
In his 911 call and statements to police, Connor said he and Kaylyn had been alone in their basement bedroom when he was awakened by a gunshot. “The initial concern was suicide versus homicide,” says forensic pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr. Yet without evidence pointing either way, Kohr’s finding at the time listed Kaylyn’s manner of death as “undetermined.”
For more than four years, her family wondered whether they’d ever know the truth.
But in February, authorities say 24-year-old Connor voluntarily walked into a police station with a very different story — and he’s since been charged with Kaylyn’s murder. Connor has pleaded not guilty.
For more about the investigation and Connor’s alleged confession, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.