Désirée Gibbons was a New York-based model. In the hopes of saving up money to attend film school in Europe, the 26-year-old traveled to Jamaica in search of work while she stayed at the hotel her grandmother owned on the island, as reported by the New York Daily News.

Her mother, Andrea Cali-Gibbon, described Désirée as someone who wanted to travel in order to “try things and experience cultures.” And she did.

After spending over one month in Jamaica, Désirée was scheduled to fly home to Queens last Thursday.

However, the young model met a violent end before she could get back onto American soil.

Her body was discovered on a Sunday morning in late November, abandoned on the side of the road four miles from Montego Bay. With her throat slashed and body showing signs of a brutal beating, her family is “reeling” from the horror of it all. Of her daughter, Andrea told the Daily News:

“We were very close, so you can imagine, when I got the news, ‘devastated’ doesn’t begin to describe it.

The brutality is what killed me. She was beaten and had her throat sliced open.”

Andrea believes that her daughter’s killer was someone Désirée knew and trusted. And despite her devastating loss, the mother is staying strong, holding on to the strength she imagined her daughter showed in her final moments:

“She was a tough cookie. I know she fought until she drew her last breath. I know she did. And I’m certain that her last thought was, ‘Will my mom be OK if I don’t make it?’”

Désirée was one of 12 people murdered that weekend in St. James Parish. The small Jamaican county boasts a population of approximately 184,000. Since the start of the year, 296 people have been murdered there, according to The Gleaner.

Before traveling to a foreign destination, it is imperative to do your research in order to gauge the safety of the country. The U.S. Department of State website has a page dedicated to alerts and warnings, that can quickly tell a traveler the potential safety hazards.

In addition, travelers can sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that aids U.S. citizens as they travel to foreign destinations. After enrollment, users will get updates with the latest safety and security information, allowing travelers to plan ahead and adapt if need be. Furthermore, the program keeps travelers in touch with the U.S. embassy, making it easier to reach a point of contact if necessary.

Above all, travel with caution. Follow your gut and stay alert. In addition, stay in close contact with loved ones so they may better locate you in case of an emergency.

GoFundMe

Désirée was excited about her future, eager to return stateside to work at her friend’s record label. Andrea said:

“There are just no words for this tragic event. We are destroyed and broken beyond repair.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe page.

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