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By Diane DiPiero, Associated Content

It could have been a summer cookout that drew all of the cars to Walden Avenue in Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood. Or it might have been a young child’s birthday party that coaxed neighbors out of their neatly kept two-story homes just around dinnertime.

Indeed, the teddy bears that dotted the front lawn and the colorful balloons strung across the front stoop of Tonya Hunter-Lyons’ home might have suggested a celebration was taking place.

But the faces of those gathered outside Hunter-Lyons’ place told a much more painful story. These folks had not come to celebrate but to mourn the death of Hunter-Lyons, who was stabbed to death in her garage last Sunday.

Her estranged husband, Maurice Lyons, was arrested Monday and later charged with aggravated murder and domestic violence. After allegedly stabbing his wife, Lyons is said to have driven her 4-year-old son to a deserted Cleveland street far from his home and left him there. The child led police to his mother’s body. (Maurice Lyons is not the boy’s father.)

Hunter-Lyons, 42, was described by those who spoke at the vigil as kind and intelligent. They talked about her passion for helping others. As the owner of Success 1 Services, Hunter-Lyons provided marriage and family counseling services to many people.

In fact, Hunter-Lyons met her future husband at an anger management class she was teaching. They began to date and eventually married late last year, but the union was rocky almost from the start. She filed two restraining orders against him in the past few months.

There was a lot of blame going around the circle of family and friends gathered outside her house Wednesday evening. Some blamed the system that was supposed to protect women like Hunter-Lyons. Why was Maurice Lyons allowed anywhere near his wife, they wondered. Others shook their heads as they remembered a more close-knit community where a woman’s screams — no matter what time of night — would have gotten enough concerned people out of bed and into her backyard to prevent Maurice Lyons from taking his wife’s life.

Society. Culture. Negligence. They were all touted as reasons something so awful could have happened. But you got the feeling at the vigil that Hunter-Lyons, as a professional counselor, believed she could help to relieve the community of such ailments and put people on the right track. You got the feeling, as you stood outside Hunter-Lyons’ house and looked at the pictures of her pasted onto homemade signs, that she really cared, perhaps too deeply for her own good.

Omar Dhyll, of Cleveland, listens as people speak about Tonya Hunter-Lyons at a rally and vigil for Hunter-Lyons.

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