Heartbroken family of murdered Bay Area mom receives her college degrees

As the Diablo Valley College class of 2024 filed into Viking Stadium in Pleasant Hill on Friday, donning caps and gowns, there was one heartbreaking absence.

"I know she’s here with us, and I know she’s proud of us," graduate Kassandra Santiago referred to her close friend and fellow nursing student, Brittany Ligdis.

Pinole Police said the 30-year-old was shot and killed in her home this February. 

Also home at the time was her 4-year-old boy, Liam.

"He was her whole world," Santiago said.

Pinole Police said Jeffrey Kendall, Brittany’s ex, and the father of Liam, took her life.

Investigators shared surveillance video with KTVU which showed Kendall fleeing from the crime scene.

The California Highway Patrol would arrest Kendall later that night in Santa Cruz.

"We were supposed to do this together, and she should be here," Santiago said of the graduation.

In a touching moment on Friday, Brittany’s grieving mother, Cathy Ligdis, walked hand in hand with the two children Brittany left behind to receive two degrees on her behalf.

"I mean, it’s terrible," said Professor Valerie Greene, who had the honor of announcing Brittany’s name at the commencement ceremony, remembers Brittany as a popular, star student.

"We need people who are willing to step in and help, and like, make a difference," Greene said. "She was one of those people, and to lose here is a huge void. You know, this is not her story."

Brittany leaves behind a legacy of helping her fellow students succeed.

"The whole healthcare industry is missing out on her," said another friend and fellow student, 

Christina George. "She would’ve been such a compassionate nurse."

Brittany’s mother, clearly moved by the graduation, is now taking on the responsibility of caring for her grandchildren.

Brittany’s friends said she was planning to transfer to the university level, and eventually start her career as a nurse, before her life was cut short.

A spokesperson for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said Kendall entered a not guilty plea.

He remains in jail on multiple charges, including murder, and is due back in court for a hearing in June.