Police: Body found is young Kansas City mom Essence Willoughby

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City Police have confirmed the body discovered Tuesday in an east-side creek bed is that of a missing mother. Essence S. Willoughby, 21, disappeared Sunday.

Willoughby's family last saw her as she left for church with her two young sons and 42-year-old boyfriend.

A search party came across her body around 2:00 Tuesday afternoon in a wooded area near Leeds Trafficway and Stadium Drive.

Wednesday, Willoughby's mother and stepfather said talking to her sons about their mother's death has been difficult.

"We just say that right now mommy is asleep and she's with Jesus," said stepfather Jesse Frazier.

Willoughby's 3-year-old son led police to her body. The family said he witnessed his mother's final moments, saying his father killed her.

Helen Frazier, Willoughby's mother, said Essence's death was a tragic end to a relationship that was violent from the start. However, she said Willoughby believed she could make it work.

"When someone's heart is involved into something so deeply, trusted in a hope that things can be changed by love, then they're going to stay in that," Helen Frazier said. "That's why she stayed in that relationship, in spite of what the end was going to bring."

Kansas City police have Willoughby's boyfriend in custody for an unrelated charge, but he has not been named a suspect in her death. Police said he will be questioned about the crime.

A vigil in Willoughby's honor is planned for Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Gilbert Memorial AME Church in Kansas City, Mo. The family wants everyone to bring candles and wear purple to signify domestic violence.

The family is also working to set up a fund for Willoughby's sons.

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