Las Vegas family mourning loss of 21-year-old is turning tragedy into a lifesaving message

Makayla Rhiner, 21, was stabbed to death in her garage near Russell and Buffalo. (Courtesy: Lynn Pingol-Rhiner)

A Las Vegas family preparing to bury their daughter after a horrific case of domestic violence has a lifesaving message.

The family of Makayla Rhiner, 21, is taking the pain of knowing she died by being stabbed in her garage to elevate the conversation about domestic violence.

Paul Meadows is Rhiner’s godfather. He says there were warning signs.

“There are people very close to her, close to us, they have a deep hole in their soul because they think they could've said more,” said Meadows. “There's something they saw, they knew, and they didn't say anything."

Meadows says Rhiner was -- in three words -- grace, spunk, and style.

“Makayla was full of life. She was a ball of energy and always chose to see the good in everything,” said Meadows. “In her short 21 years, she lived a lifetime,” he continued.

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Rhiner was the oldest of two children and a graduate of UNLV who dreamed of traveling the world.

Meadows says it’s not hard to find pictures of Rhiner that exude her beauty and elegance.

“That's her smile, that's her gorgeous hair. That's the sweetness,” he said, pointing to a picture on a cardboard poster. “That is everything about the grace and elegance she possessed."

Officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department say Rhiner was murdered six days ago by 33-year-old Brandon Hanson.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hanson appeared before a judge in a Clark County courtroom. He is being held without bail and is expected back in court in October.

Police say Hanson confessed to stabbing Rhiner in her garage. According to detectives, Rhiner and Hanson went out on three dates and when she broke things off in June, he couldn’t handle it.

Police say Hanson told detectives he was “severely depressed.”

RELATED LINK | Man accused of killing young woman appears in court

The details are hard to swallow for a man who watched Rhiner grow up and saw himself as her protector.

“She literally saw good in everybody. We say that about so many people. Yet she gave people a chance, that didn't deserve a chance,” explained Meadows.

Moving forward, Meadows decided tragedy will not break him. Instead, it’s a wake-up call.

“What happened to our beautiful, innocent, loving Makayla should make everyone more aware of the dangers of domestic violence,” said Meadows. “If you see something, say something. Use your eyes, use your ears. Use every one of your senses. Because there's always warning signs."

And that, Meadows says, is the best way to pay tribute to his goddaughter.

“If this message or event will bring awareness or prevention to even one case, Makayla's life and death will have not passed in vain,” noted Meadows.

If you or someone you know is a victim or has concerns about domestic violence, call Metro’s Victim Services Unit at 702-828-2955.

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