Takeria Adderly, found dead last week west of Kathleen Road, is remembered by friends and family for her positivity.

LAKELAND – Takeria Adderly was known as the woman who lit up the room with her smile, said Cindy Tilley, a close friend and mentor.

“I want everyone to know how beautiful she was,” said Tilley, who said she is heartbroken by the news of Adderly’s death.

Adderly, 22, was found dead last week in a wooded area near the 2000 block of West Bella Vista Street, a month after she was reported missing. The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death a homicide, but Lakeland police have released few other details.

Tilley, the founder of Forgotten Angels Florida, a nonprofit that provides resources and support to youth who are struggling to achieve housing, education and skills, said she met Adderly independent of the organization and took an interest in her future.

“Her life mattered. A lot of people will be forever hurt by this,” she said, her voice breaking up as she wept on the phone.

Tilley said she does not know what motive any person would have because Adderly did not have any enemies.

“I can’t even tell you right now how distraught we are,” she said.

Tilley and Adderly often rode together as Tilley gave her rides to the Simmons Career Center, took her shopping and shared other activities with her. She said the Adderly dropped out of high school to work and help take care of her family.

“There was so much to love about her,” she said.

Describing Adderly as the kind of girl who would “literally help anyone,” she said Adderly, known to some of her friends as “Keria,” would “give you her last dollar.”

She said Adderly would drive to Gainesville to give a friend a ride if they needed it.

“She is so beautiful on the inside and out .. I used to always call her my pretty girl,” she said.

Adderly was determined and a hard worker, Tilley said, holding a job at Arby’s in Lakeland for a while, and doing other jobs as well.

“She came to all our events, we had Christmas and Thanksgiving,” she said.

Tilley said Adderly loved her family and her siblings and was in the process of moving to Georgia with her boyfriend.

“When I see that my pretty girl’s last moments were fearful, how do you look at her, look at that sweet little face and not have some compassion?” she said.

“I am so angry. The only thing that gives me any solace is knowing she is in a better place,” she said, noting her faith is helping her cope.

A family in grief

On social media, Adderly’s family and friends wept, but many declined to talk to The Ledger amid the grief.

Missy Reddick, Adderly’s cousin, said Adderly was a “bright and amazing young lady with a heart of gold.”

“And for her to be taken from us so senselessly has really taken a toll on our family. She will always be loved and truly be missed,” Reddick said.

David Tyler, another friend of Adderly’s, said, “Takeria was full of life.”

“She had a glow that made her stand out in a crowd of 100,” he said. “She made me smile without trying, and brought me to tears with her heart of gold and commitment to family. I am a better person because of what her appreciations and the way she showed it made me feel. If I had a daughter, Takeria, along with my own sisters and mother, would be the mold I would begin from.”

Tiffany Cornelius, the manager at the Arby’s restaurant at 803 E. Memorial Blvd., said Adderly worked at Arby’s before Cornelius came there.

“She was loving and bubbly, and happy and outgoing. She was like one of the sweetest people you would know,” she said.

Cornelius said that every day, Adderly would find a way to put a smile on people’s faces.

“When a guest was rude, she was the one we would send to deal with them,” she said. “She had a way of turning their negativity into positivity.”

Cornelius said she last saw Adderly on June 29, the night she is reported to have gone missing, just before she left for her 8:30 p.m. Uber pickup. Adderly drove for Uber, she said.

Friends gathered Friday night at Webster Park for a balloon release in Adderly’s memory.

The investigation

Lakeland police continue the investigation into her death.

Adderly’s family reported her missing on June 30.

A week later, on July 7, her vehicle was found abandoned in southeast Lakeland, and investigators arrested Cristian Darrach, 21, of Lakeland on July 10 on charges of grand theft and burglary of her vehicle, as well as tampering with evidence and violation of probation. He remains in the Polk County Jail as a primary person of interest in her death, police said.

Adderly’s body was found Wednesday by a team of canine handlers conducting training exercises early in the morning, according to police. She was hidden in heavy vegetation west of Kathleen Road and less than a mile south of I-4.

The LPD is not releasing any other details at this time, citing the need to protect the integrity of the investigation.

Anyone who has information related to the case is asked to contact Detective Cory Lawson at 863-834-8975, 863-559-5137, or email cory.lawson@lakelandgov.net. Or to remain anonymous, contact Heartland Crime Stoppers at 800-226-TIPS (800-226-8477), visit www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com and click on “Submit A Tip,” or download the free “P3tips” app on a smartphone or tablet.

A way to remember

Tilley said she is not going to let Adderly’s death be in vain.

She has her eye on another piece of property to expand her nonprofit’s reach from the 14 boys she currently helps to also helping girls.

She said she would like to name it after Adderly, calling it something like “T Adderly Place or Home,” a sanctuary.

Currently, the boys helped by Tilley’s nonprofit live on 12 1/2 acres. She is hoping to find another property for the girls.

“I just wish that the world would see that this moment they snuffed out an amazing, beautiful soul,” she said. “Takeria was a very bright spot in my life, and it makes me very sad.”

Kathy Leigh Berkowitz can be reached at kberkowitz@theledger.com or at 863-802-7558. Follow her on Twitter @kberkowitzthel1.