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Father of slain girl wages never-ending fight against domestic violence

A father is waging a never-ending fight after losing his daughter to domestic violence.

In the wake of the recent homicide of University of Pittsburgh student Alina Sheykhet, that father is even more committed to educating young people and preventing future domestic violence deaths.

Demi Cuccia was a cheerleader at Gateway High School 10 years ago. She came from a great family and was well-loved.

Her slaying shocked the community and spurred her dad into action.


"You've got to make healthy choices, healthy decisions," Gary Cuccia said. Cuccia has been speaking at high schools for the last 10 1/2 years, ever since his daughter, Demi, was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2007, just one day after her 16th birthday.

Cuccia recently spoke at Montour High School where Sheykhet graduated from. Sheykhet was a Pitt student who allegedly was killed in September by her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Darby. Cuccia says his heart aches for Sheykhet's family.

"I know exactly how they feel. I know exactly what they're in for," he said.

Demi and Sheykhet were both beautiful young women from caring families who had bright futures.  Both broke up with their boyfriends and then became victims of domestic violence.

"I would say the pain, it never ever goes away. Some days are way worse than others but by doing advocacy, it's a way of channeling that pain into something meaningful, something positive," Cuccia said.

Cuccia got legislation passed in Pennsylvania after Demi's death that strongly encourages high schools to have assemblies about dating violence.  He commends Sheykhet's family and their quest to get Alina's Law passed to enhance the way police can track PFA offenders.

He said it's important for teens and young adults to know the signs of an unhealthy relationship and not be afraid to speak up.

"They know what's going on with each other way better than we do as parents or teachers or guidance counselors so if they start to see things as potential problems or red flags and they speak up, that makes a huge difference," Cuccia said.

He told Channel 11 he also hopes all high schools would have a program like this where kids can talk about dating violence.