COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. – Exactly one month after her boyfriend was shot and beaten to death, a young Colonial Heights woman has been found dead.
Gracie Upton, 18, was the former girlfriend of 19-year-old Andrew Hensley, a Manchester High School grad recently murdered off Willow Oaks Drive.
Crime Insider sources say the cases are not connected, but say the common denominator is drug activity.
Jeff Edwards' grief was obvious as he reminisced Tuesday about his goddaughter, a young woman he considered like a daughter, one he says he helped raise from a toddler to her teens.
"Gracie came to live with us and lived with us for most of her life,” Edwards said. “At least 13 years of her life."
Crime Insider sources say Upton was found unresponsive at a Fendall Avenue apartment Sunday morning. She died at the hospital early Monday morning.
Richmond Police say it's a death investigation. Crime Insider sources say investigators are leaning towards an overdose.
"Andrew died one month before her death,” Edwards said. “He died the 13th of July. She died the 13th of August."
Andrew and Gracie had rekindled a relationship just prior to his death. Police say Hensley was shot and beaten badly. He was later taken off life support at VCU Medical Center.
"I think it was very hard for her to even process,” said Gracie's mom, Courtney McKenna. She agrees with Upton’s godfather, Jeff Edwards: Hensley's death took a toll on Upton's mental health, and she started down a dark path of depression.
"Gracie was just numb, depressed. I’d never seen her like this," Edwards said.
From there, Upton's family believes peer pressure and easy access to synthetic drugs may have led to her demise.
“I wish I had done more to monitor a little better, or keep her away… But there’s only so much you can do when their that age,” said McKenna.
"What these kids are getting a hold of is killing them,” Edwards said. “Somebody knows something, and someone’s got to speak up or they’re not gonna have any friends let if they don’t speak up. If parents don’t speak up they’re not going to have any children left.”
If you have any information that can help detectives with Upton's death investigation, call Richmond Police.