JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A beloved Jacksonville hair stylist who police said was stabbed to death Monday by her abusive boyfriend was a mentor to many in her business and will never be forgotten, co-workers told News4Jax.
Cassandra Valentin, known as Sandii, was funny, loving and a ball of energy, her friends said.
Just days ago, they learned the 61-year-old had been murdered in her Moncrief home. Police later said her boyfriend, Marvin Williams, was the suspect.
“It's never going to feel the same. You never can replace Sandii,” said Ephraim Anderson, Valentin's co-worker at Snag Extreme Style. “You took something from us in the hair community that can never be replaced.”
Anderson said that he had worked off and on with Valentin since 1995 and that she returned to the salon in 2015. He called her a beautiful lady who always made her customers leave with a smile.
Other co-workers felt the same.
“Sandii was always an upbeat person. To me, she's like life,” Hasina Kendrick said. “If you're not happy, you will be happy after talking to Sandii. She's a jokester.”
Kendrick's words for the man accused of taking her friend's life were not so kind.
“He's a coward,” Kendrick said of Williams, who was denied bond Thursday on a murder charge in Valentin's death.
Williams was caught by police Wednesday after they got tips from the public that he was working construction at a local hospital. He ran when officers showed up at his job site, but was captured and arrested after a short foot chase.
Court documents detail a history of violence between Valentin and Williams. It's a history some of her friends admit they did not know.
“She kept to herself and no one knew this was going on,” Anderson said.
He showed up at Thursday's first appearance for Williams, saying he wanted to see the man accused of killing her.
“I just had to see him because I know that's what she would want me to do,” Anderson said. “She would want for me to be here.”
Back at the Westside salon on Thursday, Valentin's station remained untouched. Shampoo bottles and styling tools were the same way she left them.
"We understand the circumstances, but it’s her station. (After) we adjust and kind of come to grips with what has gone on, we’ll clean it up," said Michael Holt, who worked at the station next to hers for nine years. "But for now, it'll stay like that."
When Valentin walked out the salon door at 3:18 p.m. Saturday, Holt said, he never expected her to not come back.
"She was one of the best hair stylists I've ever met since I've been here in Florida," Holt said. "I learned a lot about color from her. That was her thing."
As Valentin's friends grieve their loss, they have a message for anyone in an abusive relationship.
“Get out. Get some help. Talk to somebody,” Kendrick said. “Everybody, we all have our things we go through, and I know there are things people feel should be kept secret, but this is not to ever be kept a secret. It's not a secret.”
Williams will be back in court in February.
In the meantime, Valentin's friends are planning a vigil for her from 3-5 p.m. Saturday at her home on Frank E Avenue.
They ask that everyone wear Valentin's favorite color: Red.
Victims of domestic violence can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 24 hours a day, at 1-800-799-7233 or the Hubbard House locally at 904-354-3114.