Almost one year after 20-year-old Lacey Jones-McKnight was killed, friends and family gathered at her grave Sunday afternoon.

While the grief is still raw, the group says they have something to be thankful for this weekend — charges are being upgraded against Jones-McKnight's accused killer. 

'The charges have been upgraded to first-degree [murder].' - Shelly Jones, mother of Lacey Jones-McKnight

"Right now we're celebrating a huge victory," explained Jones-McKnight's mother, Shelly Jones. "The charges have been upgraded to first-degree [murder]."

Jones-McKnight's former fiance, Kristopher "Tray" Guenther, had been charged with second-degree murder last October after her body was found in a car in northeast Calgary.

Police later rescued Guenther from a nearby bridge where he had been attempting to hang himself.

Jones says Guenther, who has not been convicted of any crimes in connection to the death, began stalking her daughter after the pair broke up one month earlier.

Shortly after Jones-McKnight's death, Calgary police confirmed they had had several interactions with Guenther but had not laid any charges, despite repeated requests for help from the family.

'I just murdered your daughter'

The family alleged in the past that Guenther showed up at their home the night Jones-McKnight was killed and said, "I just murdered your daughter."



The allegations have not been proven in court but Jones told CBC News exclusively that police say charges against Guenther will be upgraded Nov. 18 — the first day of his preliminary inquiry.

"It just gives me that much more hope that maybe there will be some justice," Jones said.

The family's friends say they are also relieved at the news.

"I started crying at work, I was so happy," said Christina Patterson, who was at the Sunday gathering. "We've been fighting for so long and trying to get the word ... out."

Justice for Lacey is the name of the campaign started by Jones soon after her daughter's death.

On Sunday, stickers bearing the logo were plastered over the cars of those gathered at the cemetery and many wore purple — Jones-McKnight's favourite colour.

Besides reminiscing and celebrating the news of a stronger charge, those gathered had also raised money for the young woman's favourite charity, the MEOW Foundation.

They will also adopt a family over Christmas through a local women's shelter.

Jones says she wants to help save others from the same violent fate her daughter faced.

'Don't ever think it can't happen to you'

Jones says she's disappointed with the way police handled the incidents leading up to Jones-McKnight's death. 

It's alleged Guenther had been stalking and threatening Jones-McKnight for at least a month before her death.

Now, Jones says she is launching her own investigation.

She has been requesting documents through Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) requests and is vowing to get answers.

"The real tragedy in all this is, don't ever think it can't happen to you. I guess I can't reiterate that enough."