Victim Grace Rebecca Mann, 20, was a prominent student at University of Mary Washington

By Jeff Truesdell
Updated April 21, 2015 03:00 PM
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Credit: Peter Cihelka/The Free Lance Star/AP

A funeral service on Tuesday mourned the death of a prominent student at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, while the 30-year-old suspect – one of her housemates – sat in jail, accused of her murder.

“This is simply a nightmare,” Melissa Mann, the mother of victim Grace Rebecca Mann, 20, of Falls Church, Virginia, said during the service, WTOP reports.

“It is with profound sadness and disbelief that we are here today,” Mann said, telling friends and family of the victim, “We are completely overwhelmed by your love.”

Her daughter was discovered unconscious in her bedroom about 3 p.m. Friday by two female roommates in the Fredericksburg home they all shared with suspect Steven Vander Briel, according to The Free Lance-Star. The roommates called 911 and one attempted CPR but Briel, who was home at the time, fled before police arrived.

Police say Briel was quickly identified as a suspect and was arrested after a two-hour search, WUSA-9 reports.

Apart from sharing the residence, Briel and the victim did not have a romantic relationship, say Fredericksburg police, who did not release a motive, according to the Washington Post.

The Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the cause of death to be “asphyxia due to strangulation,” according to WTOP.

Mann was an appointed member of the university president’s task force on sexual assault, was a board member of the campus organization Feminist United, and also held a seat in the student senate, the Washington Post reports.

Her father, Thomas Mann, is a juvenile and domestic-relations court judge in Fairfax County, Virginia, according to The Free Lance-Star.

Briel is being held in Rappahannock Regional Jail without bond on charges of first-degree murder and abduction. He appeared in court Tuesday via video, represented by a public defender, but did not enter a plea, WTOP reports.

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