Janiece Lewis said her older sister Brianna Hamilton was her first best friend. The two oldest of four girls, spending time together was, for them, "a different kind of love." In between playing Barbies and dress-up, Brianna taught her "shy, tomboy" little sister how to do makeup and was always willing to let her tag along.
"It was never going to be a dull moment with Brianna, she'd never let you down," Janiece told Windy City Times. "We did everything together. There was no 'she was in trouble' or 'I was in trouble'we got in trouble together."
Brianna, who was transgender, was murdered Sept. 16; she was 26. The Human Rights Campaign reported that, as of Sept. 6, at least 36 transgender people have been violently killed this year.
Police found Brianna at the 7800 block of South Bishop Avnue. at around 6:30 a.m. and transported her to Holy Cross Hospital, where she was pronounced dead due to a gunshot wound to her head. Chicago Police Department said Area 2 detectives are investigating; no one is yet in custody.
"It's so hard. I talked to her just before everything happened," Janiece said. "Everything has changed and we're still trying to cope with the fact that this is our reality. I wish I could just go back in time and get to her and say, 'No, don't go outside today.'"
Janiece looked up to Brianna because she was loyal and outgoing. One of Briana's best friends, Riyah Walton, remembers her as "jubilant" and "someone you could trust."
When Brianna was around to complete the group of sisters, the four girls were always on the same level, Janiece recalled. Brianna's laugh was "contagious" and always the one who could cheer everyone up.
"We'd go from zero to 100 so fast," Janiece said. "One minute we'd be laughing, giggling, gossiping, and then the next arguing. We were so hyper. We were just that type of sisters."
But since Brianna's death, everything has been different, she added. The family just aren't themselves anymore.
Family and friends held Brianna's funeral Oct. 5 and wore her favorite colors: pink and black. Janiece said it's been"more than hard" to see her mother and sisters so hurt, but she broke down when she saw Brianna for the last time at the funeral.
"My whole life[especially] when we were kidsshe made it known to me that she'd never leave me," Janiece said. "So when they closed the casket, all I could think was that she was leaving me. I just wanted to see her smile and laugh so bad. All we have now are memories, and they're good memories, but it was never supposed to be like this."
Janiece said Brianna had recently moved into a new apartment and "turned into a real homebody" who loved nights in with her cat watching Harry Potter marathons. But when she did go out, Brianna made sure she was "sickening."
"She had style," Janiece recalled. "My sister was dope. She loved getting dressed up and whatever she did, she looked cute."
Brianna had always been a "girly girl," but when she first transitioned, she started by wearing makeup and "styling her eyebrows down to the T," said Janiece. "People used to say to me, 'You look like Brianna,' and I loved hearing that compliment."
Riyah shared Brianna's passion for makeup, fashion and "girly girl things." The two had known each other since 2015 but got especially close over the past two years, spending nearly every day together. They loved to travel, go to the movies and host Facebook Livestreams.
"We'd be shopping all the time, wearing matching hairstyles, matching outfits," Riyah said. "We did everything together. We loved dressing up together, getting color in our hair. Like, if she got a color I liked, then I'd go and get it the next week."
Riyah recalled how, during one of their excursions, she taught Brianna how to drive in a parking lot one night.
"She was like, 'Why are we doing this at night?'" Riyah said. "And I was like, 'I'm not trying to take the easy way out. I'm trying to make you better. If you can do it in the nighttime, you can do it in the daytime.' So we were just riding around, giggling and laughing."
Riyah hasn't felt stable since losing Brianna. "I feel like I should've been around more, even though I was around all the time. I don't know, I just wanted more time with her."
Anyone with information about the case can submit it at cpdtip.com .