— They called her Sunny.
"That name was just perfect for her," said Mark Hanel, remembering his 20-year-old friend Yesenia Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was murdered last week in a brutal attack at her Mankato home. Her attacker cut her throat and fled, leaving Gonzalez to desperately seek help from her husband and father-in-law before bleeding to death. The attacker also assaulted Gonzalez's husband, Galo Buccio.
A short time later, police arrested Levi Minissale, a Twin Cities man whom friends say had a dark intensity about him when it came to Gonzalez. Minissale was found in a restroom of a nearby North Riverfront Drive gas station.
But rather than thinking about how Gonzalez died, friends say they'd rather remember her for the shining ray of light she was in their lives. She loved music, loved to dance and loved being the coordinator of get-togethers.
The St. James native also had a knack for making connections with people.
Hanel said the last time he saw Gonzalez was last Wednesday. He'd just gotten a new stereo installed in his vehicle.
"She was the kind of friend who I could call up and say, 'Hey, I got this new stereo and I know you want to hear it,'" Hanel said.
And she did.
They shared a love for loud music, a love that was common in Gonzalez's circle of friends.
The last time Gonzalez spent time with Minissale, they'd attended a music festival called the Electric Daisy Carnival in Joliet, Ill.
Hanel said he remembers the day he met Sunny. He came to her home and, upon seeing visitors at her door, she welcomed them in, gave them hot coffee and made sure they were comfortable in her home.
Another friend, Ian Chapman, described Gonzalez as a dear friend.