A University of Michigan-Flint nursing student was fatally shot in a murder-suicide after being kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend, who was a resident doctor, police said.
Gina Bryant, 25, was fatally shot at a truck stop in LaSalle, Illinois, by her ex-boyfriend, Justin Wendling, 26, who later killed himself hundreds of miles away in Iowa, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
Police said Bryant was last seen on Oct. 12 by co-workers who grew concerned when she did not return after going home for her lunch break. They then began receiving “odd text messages” from her phone, authorities said.
A neighbor’s surveillance footage showed Wendling had entered Bryant’s home and was waiting for her when she returned home for lunch, then captured him leading her to his car, authorities said.
The next day, Wendling called his parents and told them he had killed Bryant and was going to kill himself, authorities said. The parents called law enforcement, who then found Bryant’s body at the truck stop in LaSalle. Surveillance footage and witnesses confirmed that Wendling had shot and killed her before fleeing.
Wendling’s vehicle was later located in Bettendorf, Iowa. As local police approached his car, he shot and killed himself, authorities said.
“Unfortunately, the MCSO is seeing an uptick of Domestic Violence cases. These incidents are tragic not only to the victims & survivors, but to family members as well,” Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said in the statement. “Please, if you or someone you know is in an unsafe situation, do not hesitate to reach out.”
Speaking to The Detroit News, Bryant’s mother and sister said that she and Wendling had been in a relationship for about 11 months and moved in together, but Bryant moved out at the end of September and told them that he had been abusing her.
“She was very beautiful, down-to-earth, giving woman,” Bryant’s sister told the outlet. “She could brighten up a day with just her smile. She’d give you the shirt off your back. She was caring and compassionate.”
Friends and family have also posted on social media honoring the aspiring nurse’s legacy by sharing memories and heartfelt words.
“Your smile and hugs were so welcoming to us always,” one friend wrote. “We loved hearing you join in the laughter with us when we laughed at Nonas goofiness or just the craziness of our get togethers.”
According to an email to students in Bryant’s cohort and faculty sent by Cynthia McCurren, the Dean of University of Michigan-Flint’s School of Nursing, Bryant was in her senior year and enrolled in the school’s accelerated BSN program.
“There are truly no words to fully capture the anguish that losses like this cause our community,” McCurren said. “Gina was an extraordinary young woman with much ahead of her. I am personally struggling to make sense of this horrible news as I imagine many of you will be doing as well.”
In a statement to HuffPost, Ascension Genesys Hospital, where Wendling was an obstetrics and gynecology resident, said it was fully cooperating with law enforcement during the investigation.
“Ascension Genesys Hospital has recently learned of the death of one of our residents,” the statement read. “Emotional and spiritual support services are being offered to staff and providers during this difficult time.”
CORRECTION: This article initially stated Gina Bryant was killed in Michigan; she was killed in Illinois, according to authorities.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.