Fourteen-year-old Tristan Dilley seemed to have everything to look forward to.
The vivacious teen was a freshman at Silsbee High School in Silsbee, Texas, and a valued member of their cheerleading squad. She participated in the school’s first homecoming pep rally late last month and, on Saturday night, attended a school dance and sleepover at a friend’s house.
But on Sunday, authorities say, Tristan’s 13-year-old brother discovered her dead in her second-floor bedroom at her mother’s home in Buna, Texas. She had been shot twice in the head with a .22-caliber magnum revolver two days before her 15th birthday.
Her brother found her body, clothed, on top of the bed. She wasn’t facing her killer when she died.
“She never saw it coming,” Jasper County, Texas, Sheriff’s Lt. Ryan Cunningham tells PEOPLE. “You could tell from the scene there was not a struggle or a fight. She was comfortable with knowing the person.”
As investigators would come to discover, Tristan’s killer, an older teen, was someone she knew — though their relationship was kept partially secret from both of their families.
The Case Is Cracked
Lt. Cunningham, who worked alongside Jasper County Sheriff Mitch Newman and Lts. Scotty Duncan, Jason McClelland and Cal Morgan, says detectives quickly ruled out a break-in in connection with Tristan’s death.
“She was very positive,” Silsbee High School Principal Paul Trevino tells PEOPLE. “She had that type of personality that people wanted to be around her and hang out with her.”
In her obituary, Tristan was remembered as an athletic student and “a very kind, sweet and compassionate young lady who was loved by so many.” An online fundraiser was launched to help pay for her funeral.
Investigators soon learned that she had been dating a boy named “Adam,” Cunningham says — but neither her family nor her fellow cheerleaders knew much about him, other than his name and what they believed was his age: 16 years old.
Her dad told authorities that Adam was “tall and lanky” and “supposed to be a high school basketball player,” Cunningham says.
School records and officials were no more successful in locating the teen’s boyfriend, but investigators caught a break when they began searching through her phone and Facebook activity.
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Christine Pelisek