Family of Shayley Estes honors her legacy with donations to animal shelter


PITTSFIELD — Shayley Estes, according to her family, loved animals.

She also enjoyed just doing nice favors for people, including complete strangers. What her family now calls "random acts of kindness."

"She was my little buddy," said her cousin, Nicole Liebenow, 30. "I was the one at the bottom of the slide who would catch her when she came down."

A year ago Sunday, Shayley Estes, then 22, was brutally murdered by her estranged boyfriend in Phoenix, Ariz. The man, Igor Zubko, a Russian national, is presently in custody on $1 million bail.

Estes was a 2011 graduate of Drury High School, where she was an honor student and a member of the Blue Devil tennis team. She was enrolled at Arizona State university at the time.

Rather than mourn her death, said Liebenow, the family came up with a way to celebrate her life.

"To turn a sad day," said her aunt, Melissa Estes, "into a good day."

So yesterday, following a private memorial service at the Clarksburg Cemetery, about a dozen members of Shayley's extended family arrived at the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter in the Downing industrial park with bags of goodies for the animals. The aforementioned "random act of kindness."

"She loved animals," said Liebenow. "Something like this is what Shayley would have wanted."

The items included dog rope toys, tennis balls, various doggie-type food treats, squeaky toys, cat food, kitty litter and things like garbage bags and disposable gloves.

"We tried to get everything on the 'wish list' that's on the [Sonsini] website," said Shayley's cousin, Alicia Benoit, 34. Benoit and Liebenow are sisters.

"She was someone who loved animals," said Benoit of Shayley Estes. "She would volunteer at homeless shelters. She was very sweet."

The items were gratefully received by the shelter.

"This is wonderful," said shelter manager Danielle Lapointe. "They'll all get a treat before bedtime."

Lapointe was referring to the 11 dogs and 20 cats at the shelter.

Liebenow added that the family is continually raising money for a scholarship in Shayley Estes' honor. Last year, for example, a spaghetti dinner in North Adams raised about $3,000, most of which went to a scholarship fund in Estes' honor.

"She touched so many lives," said Liebenow of her cousin. "We're going to continue to do random acts of kindness in her honor."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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