Girl Found Dead on Md. Trail Day Before Her 18th Birthday, and Police Think She Was Murdered

Ty'kerria Dawson of Hagerstown had just graduated from high school when she was killed

Ty’kerria Dawson
Ty’kerria Dawson. Photo: Instagram

Maryland police are investigating the death of a 17-year-old girl whose body was found in a wooded area off a walking trail in Frederick County – and they believe she may have been murdered.

On Saturday at about 5 p.m., a woman was walking along a path in the woods behind Briargrove Court in Ballenger Creek when she came upon the body of a teenage girl just off of the trail, local station WJZ reports.

“When I saw her, I screamed and she didn’t even flinch,” Isabelle Weissend told WJZ. “She wasn’t moving or anything.”

The victim's family identified her as Ty’kerria Dawson of Hagerstown, the outlet reports.

Ty’kerria Dawson
Ty’kerria Dawson. Instagram

Her body was found “with apparent injuries,” the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office says in a release.

Authorities haven't yet officially released the identity of the victim.

"Our agency cannot officially confirm the identity at this point in our investigative processes -- proper protocols and practices have to be followed on our end," Taylor Clarke, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, tells PEOPLE. "As soon as we are able to release/confirm the victim’s name (officially from our agency) we will do so via an updated press release."

Clarke says police believe this was an isolated incident.

“Investigators believe that this was not a random act of violence,” Clarke tells PEOPLE. “The public is not in any sort of danger from an active threat of random violence.”

Ty’kerria – who went by the nickname "Tootie" – had just graduated from Antietam Academy in Hagerstown, her family told WJZ.

She was supposed to turn 18 the day after she was found murdered.

"She was full of life everywhere she went," her sister, identified only as Tiesha, 29, of West Virginia, told The Frederick News-Post. "It doesn’t matter if it was a negative situation, she was so bubbly."

Ty’kerria was upbeat and positive, and liked hip hop, dancing, and basketball, her sister told the outlet.

She also adored her large family, she says.

"She was a family-oriented person, to the max," she said.

Ty’kerria dreamed of going to college and possibly becoming a lawyer, Tiesha says.

"Every day, she was dreaming of big things to do," she said.

Tykerria's mother, Tona Dawson, added: "She was the light that kept the community bright," said Tona, 47.

A GoFundMe page titled “Justice for Tootie” has been set up to help defray her funeral expenses.

“Tootie was highly favored, always smiling,” the page says. “If you knew her you had no choice but to love her."

Neighbor Aquavia Leaks told WJZ that Ty’kerria was "just a great child. It’s just a tragedy. Her life just started, and for somebody to take it from her, it’s just not fair.”

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An autopsy is being conducted to determine Ty’kerria's cause and manner of death.

In the meantime, police continue to investigate.

"We hope to bring justice to her and her family as soon as possible," says Clarke.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Detective Skelley at 301-600-4017. Tips can also be left anonymously on the sheriff’s office tip line at 301-600-4131.

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