UPDATE: Cause of death released for pregnant Walker Co. homicide - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Cause of death released for pregnant Walker Co. homicide victim

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Victim Candace Hankins Victim Candace Hankins
WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

UPDATE:  The Walker County Sheriff's Office has released the cause of death of 29-year-old Candace Hankins who was allegedly killed by her boyfriend more than a week ago.

Sheriff Steve Wilson says Hankins was killed strangled to death.

The Sheriff also confirms that Hankins was pregnant.

Sheriff Wilson says additional charges are pending against Hankins' boyfriend David Ryan Walker, who's been charged for her death.

Walker remains in the Walker County jail.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: Friends of a Walker County woman who authorities say was killed by her boyfriend are honoring her.

Those who were close to 29-year-old Candace Hankins held a candelight vigil in her hometown of Athens, Alabama on Saturday.

They shared memories of her, released pink balloons, and lit candles in her memory at Piney Chapel Elementary. That's where Hankins went to elementary school.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: A Walker County man is accused of killing his girlfriend. Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson identified the suspect as 29-year-old David Ryan Walker and the victim as 29-year-old Candace Ann Hankins.

The Sheriff said Walker killed his girlfriend inside his home then dumped her body outside in the woods, wrapped in a blanket.

The news of Candace Hankins' death traveled to her Alabama hometown fast. It's where many of her best friends still live.

Tiffany Salvia shared pictures of Candace Hankins showing a smiling, beautiful woman. Salvia said Hankins has a young son from a previous relationship.

"I just talked to her last week, you know she seemed OK. I got to tell her I loved her," Salvia said, "I feel like I'm living a nightmare and it doesn't even feel real yet I don't think."

Investigators found the woman's body in the woods near Walker's home on Wheeler Road in Lafayette Sunday night.

"It's sad. It's just sad," Steve Brookhouser, a neighbor and friend said.

As GBI agents and Walker County sheriff's deputies looked around the Lafayette home, they started to get an idea of what happened to Hankins. Her death is the first homicide of the year for the county.

"They're all unique, but all equally devastating," Sheriff Steve Wilson of Walker County said.

Sheriff Wilson said Walker is responsible for Hankins' death.

Steve Brookhouser who knew the couple say they had typical relationship problems, but never expected this.

"To hear this, this is it's just really sad to see that happen to a family. That family is torn apart now," Brookhouser said.

Sheriff Wilson said the young woman died inside the home from what appears to be either blunt force trauma or respiratory distress.

The sheriff said her boyfriend dumped her body in the woods near his home.

Walker apparently called family members expressing remorse and then asked for help with disposing the body, but they called authorities instead.

When deputies arrived, they found Hankins' body wrapped in a blanket 75 yards from the home in the woods.

"You would think a murder suspect would be somewhat nervous, apprehensive, trying to move, pacing. He was very calm and answered the deputies questions," Sheriff Wilson said.

As Walker sits in jail charged with murder, authorities are combing through evidence in hopes of giving family and friends the answers they are waiting on.

Walker had his first court appearance on Monday. He is currently being held in jail with no bond.

One of Hankins' family members told Sheriff Wilson Candace was about 4 months pregnant at the time of her death.
    
Wilson said they're waiting on her autopsy for proof.

"Certainly the autopsy will have to confirm that, if in fact she was, then there will be an additional charge of feticide (fetal homicide) against the suspect," Sheriff Wilson said.

The Sheriff said the woman's death was fueled by a domestic dispute and records show police have visited Walker's home several times before for drugs and alleged domestic violence..
    
At least two prior 911 calls were for domestic violence but it's unclear if Hankins was involved in either of those.

Statistics show most murders in the country are related to domestic violence. The National Center Against Domestic Violence reports domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime in the country.

72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner and 94% of the victims of these murder-suicides are women.

The Sheriff said Walker was previously arrested last February for drug charges and in January of 2014 for criminal trespassing charges. An autopsy is being conducted to confirm how Hankins died.

To learn more about the resources available to anyone involved in domestic violence, the Family Crisis Center serves Walker, Dade, Chattooga and Catoosa Counties, and the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults serves Hamilton and Marion counties.

The number for a 24/7 crisis hotline is (423) 755-2700.

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