NASHVILLE - Tiffany Ferguson was always thinking of others.
So much so that the 23-year-old woman dedicated her life to mission work and the nursing profession. She even moved from her small hometown of Loretto, Tenn., to a bigger city where her family said she would often help the homeless.
Her young life of generosity came to an end early Tuesday after Metro police say an apparent stranger randomly broke into her Wedgewood Park condo under the cover of night and fatally stabbed her.
On Wednesday, police said the killer remained at large.
"We were supposed to have lunch yesterday," her 32-year-old sister Molly Cox said through spates of tears. "She had the day off and was coming to home to visit. Now, she's gone. It's senseless."
Ferguson, who had a contagious smile that family said lit up the room, grew up in Loretto with her parents, Cox and her twin sister, Ali Staggs. Ferguson attended Loretto High School and graduated from the University of North Alabama in 2015. Loretto is about 100 miles south of Nashville near the Alabama border.
"Her heart was so big," said Cox, who lives in Alabama. "She made all of us want to be better.
"She loved fitness, cooking and was a foodie especially after she moved to Nashville. She would always take us to random hole-in-the-wall restaurants to try."
Staggs, her twin sister, said Ferguson loved brunch — particularly eating it at Nashville's popular restaurants Saint Anejo and Tavern — the city's live music scene, and dancing, although her sisters say she wasn't good at it.
After graduating from college and accepting a job at Saint Thomas West Hospital where she worked the night shift, Ferguson moved into her first-floor, three-bedroom condo.
Karen Springer, president and CEO of Saint Thomas Health, said in a statement that the hospital's staff is mourning her loss.
“She was a rising star in nursing having been selected to participate in our nursing residency program just after graduating college," Springer said.
Before she was killed, Cox said her sister had been out with friends listening to live music.
At some point, she came home.
Just before 5:40 a.m., police said a roommate was awoken by screams inside the condo. When she went to check it out, police said she saw the front door open and found Ferguson fatally injured in bed.
Surveillance video outside the home shows an unidentified male suspect walking around the building looking for open vehicles and open apartment doors. He wore a zip hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans with holes in the rear knee area of both legs as well as the front, and boots.
Eventually, police said, the suspect entered Ferguson’s condo through the front unlocked door and began searching for valuables.
Police said the suspect left with items from her condo at least one time. He put them down before going back inside. At that point, there was a confrontation and Ferguson was stabbed, police said. Police are not releasing what was taken as the case remains under investigation.
"Everybody loved her," Cox said. "That's what we can't wrap our head around. To know her was to love her."
On Wednesday, Ferguson's friends and co-workers paid tribute to Ferguson online, dozens mentioning the phrase #justicefortiff and changing their Facebook profile picture to a photo of her.
Police spokeswoman Kris Mumford said Midtown Precinct Sgt. Michelle Jones plans to speak with Wedgewood Park apartments board members about the case and that a meeting is in the works for next week to discuss resident safety concerns. Police have also beefed up patrols in the neighborhood.
"Anybody that can help us find who did this, we need this for closure," Cox said through tears as Ferguson's twin cried in the background. "She didn't deserve this."
Anyone with information about the case or suspect is asked to call police at 615-742-7463.
Reach Natalie Neysa Alund at 615-259-8072 and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.