Their bond was so tight, people often considered Kelly Lawson and her two teen daughters more like sisters.
"They were so close, they were almost like triplets," said Angel Tunson, the teens' paternal grandmother.
So when police officers showed up Tuesday at the girls' maternal grandmother's house in Oklahoma, where the teens were spending part of their summer, the first person 13-year-old Baylin Harris thought to call was her mother.
"I was going to tell my mom I didn't know why police was there, 'I'm scared,' " Baylin recalled. "My mom didn't answer the phone. I assumed she was at work."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
But Baylin and her 14-year-old sister, Alynnie Harris, would soon learn why their mother didn't answer. The officers told them that Lawson, 36, had been found murdered Tuesday in the Overton Woods neighborhood of Fort Worth.
"We told them we know who it was," Baylin said. "We told them everything we knew about him. We told them where he lives. We told them his name. We told them everything."
On Wednesday, police arrested the man that the girls had immediately suspected was behind their mother's death.
Jamie Devin Brown, 38, an ex-boyfriend of Lawson, was arrested at the Gregg County Sheriff's Office in Longview.
Police officials said Thursday that Brown has provided a statement admitting to shooting Lawson.
"You have to have something really wrong with you to kill somebody's mother, and somebody we thought you had love for," Baylin said.
"And to know we were so close to her," Alynnie interjected sobbing.
On Thursday, the two teens, their grandmother and their aunt sat together at a downtown Fort Worth hotel, alternating between laughter and tears as they talked about Lawson.
"She met no strangers. Her smile was unforgettable," said the grandmother, Angel Tunson. "They are so much like her. This is a mirror image of their mother."
Baylin and Alynnie laughed about how their mother would sometimes take their cellphones away, never knowing that they knew where she'd stashed them and they'd use them when she wasn't looking.
"My mom was really sweet and she would never hurt anybody," Baylin said. "She was really fun and funny. She had a good personality. Her laughter was funny. We could tell her anything, and she would tell us anything."
Their aunt, Jennifer Tunson, said that although they were sisters only by law, her relationship with Lawson went beyond legal titles. She said it was Lawson whom she first confided in that she was pregnant.
"I could call her just like I could call my mom or my friend or my actual sister and talk to her or ask her for anything, ” Jennifer Tunson said.
Lawson had worked as a manager at In-And-Out Burger, they said.
"She put everything in it," Angel Tunson said. "Whatever she seeks to do, she puts 100 percent in it and she teaches her girls that, too. If you want it, you can get it. ... There is no such thing as 'I can't do it.' "
When Lawson had to uproot her life in Arizona years ago to help bring the popular hamburger chain to the Fort Worth/Dallas area, she couldn't bring her daughters with her but refused to leave them behind, Angel Tunson said.
"She said, 'Ah no, my babies have got to be arms-reach from me,' " Tunson said.
Tunson said Lawson asked her to let the girls move into Tunson's home in East Texas while she worked at opening the fast-food restaurants. The two- to three-hour drive couldn't keep Lawson away from her daughters, she said.
"When she was off — every weekend — she was down there," Angel Tunson said.
Though she and the girls' father, Austin Harris, were no longer together, the two remained close. Lawson would make sure her children saw their father and his family often.
"To her, he was always going to be in her life," Jennifer Tunson said. "She loved him. She was like, love doesn't end just because you're not together. She said 'No matter what, that's going to always be your dad and no one can replace him.' "
A breakup and threats
In the last year, a new man had come into Lawson's life.
Lawson's daughters said their mother had met Brown almost a year ago. Both had connections to Longview and hit it off, and Brown eventually moved into their home.
The family members say they believe that Brown's anger over Lawson's continued friendship with her daughters' father was among the reasons the relationship soured.
Two months ago, the daughters say, Lawson and Brown broke up. Since then, they say, Brown had begun threatening their mother. They suspect he even recently slashed her car tires.
"He was threatening my mom. He was texting her phone. He was posting on Facebook. He was saying hateful things to my mom but my mom was a good person. She wasn't paying him no mind," Baylin said.
That he'd now be accused in her death is still a shock.
"Looking from the outside in, I would have never thought he would have did that to her," Alynnie said.
Baylin said she looks forward to Brown's trial.
"I don't know how to put the puzzle pieces together," Baylin said. "... I have a lot of questions for him of why he did that to my mom and what was going through his mind.
"...There's no words anybody can tell me to (convince) me that my mom deserved any of it. Period," she said.
Angel Tunson said the teens have a lot of support. On Wednesday, friends and family held a memorial vigil at the sight of the shooting and the girls said they were touched that even strangers who had never met their mother attended.
"Right now we're just going to focus on keeping her memory alive for the girls," Angel Tunson said. "We also know that they're going to have good days and bad days. Sometimes our tears are going to be happy tears and sometimes they're going to be sad tears but all the joy comes in the morning. And we're just going to take it one day at a time. "
A GoFundMe page has been started to help the family with funeral expenses.