Paula and Alijah O'Conner
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Victoria Christopher is gearing for one of the biggest challenges of her life after her mother and baby brother were murdered six years ago.
St. Petersburg police say a former Air Force sergeant, 44-year-old Ralph Wright, Jr., strangled the life out of her mother and suffocated her brother when word got out that he was married. Wright is not Victoria's father.
Day two of jury selection continues in Wright's death penalty case on Tuesday. Meanwhile, with tears streaming down her cheeks, Victoria said, "I'm a girl. I need my mom."
She said of her little brother, "He was my heartbeat and I feel my heart doesn't beat the same without him."
Victoria was just 18 when they were murdered. She's 24 now and said her mom, 37-year-old Paula O'Conner, has missed out on so much, like her wedding day.
"She missed out on me growing up and becoming the woman that I am."
Victoria believes her mother would be proud of her for taking the stand against the man accused in the killings. Victoria and her best friend, Cayla Lincoln, are both key witnesses against Wright.
O'Conner had mounting medical bills for her baby boy, who had a serious heart defect. Investigators say she was trying to get the court to get Wright, the child's father, to take responsibility for their son.
When O'Conner and Wright were dating, Wright was a sergeant, a reservist, called to active duty at MacDill Air Force Base. O'Conner hoped to gain access to his military medical benefits, but when he denied fathering the baby and disappeared from her life, she hired a private investigator and learned he'd been married all along to a woman in Orlando.
She sued for child support and, three weeks later, was found strangled. Her son, Alijah, was also found suffocated in their St. Petersburg home, according to police.
Now Victoria is gearing up to face Wright at his double murder trial. While clutching her best friend's hand, she admits she's scared, but believes her mother will be with her in spirit. "I'll get through it. I'll be okay."