MANDEVILLE, La. - As families across the metro area celebrate mother's day, a Northshore family is mourning the loss of a young mother. Authorities believe Bridgette Harveston was murdered at the hands of her boyfriend.
A free spirited 31-year-old, Harveston had three children. The youngest was just 2 months old.
But now, those boys are without a mother, and Harveston's family is mourning her loss.
"[She's] been the most important thing in my life," said Blake Harveston, Harveston's father. "Very difficult thing to say goodbye to her."
Bridgette Harveston was found strangled to death Monday in a rural home owned by her boyfriend's father outside Covington.
Authorities have booked her boyfriend, Benson O'Brien, 35, with second-degree murder. He turned himself in on shoplifting charges shortly after Harveston was found dead.
O'Brien is the father of Harveston's youngest child, and the grandson of the founder of Pat O'Briens bar. He has a criminal record that dates back to the '90s.
Harveston's father said family and friends had long encouraged Harveston to cut ties, even buying her a home on the condition O'Brien couldn't step inside. Harveston never moved in.
But Harveston's father said she recently began considering moving to Texas, and planned to leave O'Brien, going so far as to pack her belongings and load them into her SUV just before she was murdered.
"We're all beating ourselves up over things we could have done," said Blake Harveston.
Blake Harveston said his daughter told friends she was in a problem relationship, and there were concerning signs.
"It may start out as small things, manipulation, controlling, but if you see, there's signals there that could tell you about this," said Harveston's father. "Everyone has a voice inside and you have a conscience that will tell you things and mine immediately told me, 'This guy is not good.'"
Now, Blake Harveston has a message for others.
"Any young ladies out there who may be in a similar situation, trust your support with your families. Talk to them."
Family and friends paid their last respects to Harveston Saturday. Her father said hundreds showed up to the services here.
"Until yesterday I really didn't know how many lives she had touched," said Blake Harveston. "She had friends I didn't even know existed. Yesterday was such an outpouring of friendship and good wishes. It was very gratifying to me."
Still, Harveston's father continues to cope with his daughter's loss and hopes the long road to justice will eventually give him some closure.
"She was the light of my life forever. The last words I told her were, 'I love you baby.' I know she knew that. I just wish I could tell her now."
Harveston has temporary custody of his daughter's 2-month-old son, fathered by O'Brien.
The St. Tammany Sherrif's Office is still investigating. More charges may follow.
Family friends have set up a fund for Harveston's children. You can donate at any Regions Bank.
If you or a loved one are in an abusive relationship, get help. Call the emergency hotline for the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children at (504) 837-5400. You can also call Safe Harbor on the Northshore. The number for the toll free hotline is 888-411-1333.