The mother of a 24-year-old woman who police said was abducted with her 2-year-old son and left dead in the woods of Tennessee says her daughter was more than just a domestic violence victim.

Speaking to reporters outside the Highland Park police headquarters on Monday afternoon, Karen Uyar said Yasemin “Yazzi” Uyar was "a good friend, a great sister, a great aunt and a great mother."

She was also "a person who tried to fight for herself" after years of fending of abuse from the father of her child, her mother said.

Tyler Rios has been charged with kidnapping and was expected to face charges in Uyar's death.

Police found Rios in a Tennessee hotel room early Saturday with their son Sebastian. Rios led police to Uyar's body along a highway in a wooded area, according to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.

Rios had a long criminal record and accusations of abuse against Uyar, including a 2018 charge of strangling her. That charge was dismissed as part of a plea deal, renewing long-debated questions about how the courts treat victims and accused perpetrators of domestic violence. On Tuesday, Gov. Murphy signed a law elevating the crime of non-fatal strangulation, making it punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

"Her relationship with domestic violence and Tyler is a long relationship," Karen Uyar said Monday. "People have to understand that it's not just the person that goes through this, it's an entire family. We as a family have been there for Yazzi through everything that was involved in their relationship."

Rios and Uyar met when he was a senior and she was a freshman at Highland Park High School.

Yaesmin had ended their relationship and was raising Sebastian on her own. He turns 3 in August.

“Unfortunately, things didn't work out the way she had planned, but I know in my heart right now she would want the message to get out there about supporting domestic violence policies. Her voice needs to continue on," her mother said.

She's also appreciative of the messages of support but asked that the public give the suspect's family some space.

"The Rios family is also grieving. They are also dealing with a situation they never thought they would be like me. So please respect that and not bother them or not try to harass them," Karen Uyar said. "The family didn't do this. Tyler did."

Karen Uyar said she made the 15-hour round-trip to Tennessee on Sunday to bring Sebastian home. He was quiet at first but was back to his old self within an hour, she said.

"He's home, which he knows is part of his home because he stays with us all the time with my other two grandchildren, and he's doing well, eating really well and is not in any kind of distress at the moment," she said.


A memorial service is planned for Uyar on Friday, July 23 at the Reformed Church of Highland Park. GoFundMe has also verified two separate accounts to help the Uyar family.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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