CORAL GABLES, Florida — New Jersey's Janine Ackerman and co-worker Marios Hortis were remembered Sunday during a candlelight vigil outside the Florida gym where they were fatally shot by a just-fired co-worker.

Janine Ackerman (R) with friend Juan Vargas
Janine Ackerman (R) with friend Juan Vargas (Juan Vargas)

The courtyard of the open air shopping center was filled with classical music and candlelight as friends, co-workers and customers of the Equinox fitness center gathered, according to Florida reports.

“It’s just such a tragic, horrible, unnecessary situation that affected some really nice people,” Julie Neitzel told Miami televison station WSVN.

The Miami Herald estimated the crowd at 500.

Miami-Dade Police said Abeku Wilson, 33, of Miami shot Ackerman, who was the club's general manager, was fired due to "workplace violence" and was escorted from the facility at the Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Gables. Wilson returned to the club and shot Ackerman and Hortis "multiple times" before killing himself, police said.

"I am numb by what happened to her. I haven't been able to take her off my mind," friend Juan Vargas told New Jersey 101.5. Vargas met Ackerman when she was his boss at the Park Central Hotel in Miami Beach before she joined Equinox.

Vargas said they were "margarita buddies" and still hung out together.

"She was like a buddy. Super sweet, funny. Not only was she beautiful from the outside but beautiful inside too. Very caring. As a boss she was my mentor. As a boss her door was always open for anyone to come in and unload any issues they had," Vargas said.

Woodstown Mayor Don Dietrich told New Jersey 101.5  the former resident of Monroeville graduated Woodstown HS in 2000 and played field hockey and continued playing in college for Michigan State. According to her MSU bio she was captain of the Woodstown field hockey team and was a three time tri-county all star.

Her parents are John and Janice Ackerman, according to the bio.

Vargas said that Ackerman always said she loved going home to spend time with her family in South Jersey.

"She was a family girl. She really, really loved her family," Vargas said

CBS Miami reported Ackerman was engaged and was to wed at the end of 2017.

Melissa Palazzolo, a former co-worker at the Fountainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach where Ackerman worked before working at the Equinox said in a Facebook post that Ackerman was a "strong, confident, sarcastic, and sharp woman. Everyone gravitated towards her"

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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