The relationship lasted only a year. But by the end, Jessica Nelson said she had come to expect the handprints and bruises that often appeared on her friend and co-worker, Tasha Lucia.

"I always knew he would hurt her," Nelson said of Lucia's boyfriend, Robert Tilghman Kronsberg, "but I never thought he would kill her."

Prosecutors prepared a murder case against Kronsberg, 31, and were ready to go to trial this week. Monday ended with no action, however, as Kronsberg considered entering a guilty plea instead, according to the victim's family and coworkers.

Nelson and several others who knew Lucia waited for hours by a Charleston County courtroom for updates on the case. The group said they would return as often as necessary until justice is served for their "dear friend."

Nelson recalled the worry she felt Feb. 10, 2013, when Lucia didn't show up for a shift at Locklear's Beach City Grill on Folly Beach.

Her concerns carried her and a second co-worker to Lucia's James Island home that day to check on her. When they arrived, they found the 25-year-old woman lying dead beneath a blanket.

Lucia had been beaten with a hammer, choked and stabbed 15 times, Charleston police said at the time. The murder weapon, a butcher knife, was still stuck in her chest when Nelson found the body.

"It's been difficult," she said. "I'll never forget it. I relive it all the time."

Police charged Kronsberg with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

He was still asleep when police entered the couple's apartment on Encampment Court, authorities said. A bottle of vodka, ibuprofen, marijuana and a knife were found beside him on a bedside table. He also allegedly told investigators he had done cocaine.

Kronsberg was shirtless, with blood on his chest, abdomen and pants and a 3-inch vertical laceration on his left wrist, police said. Paramedics pronounced Lucia dead at the scene.

Imelda Erickson, another longtime friend, described Lucia on Monday as a "loving" and "beautiful young woman."

"She was like a daughter to me," Erickson said. "She did not deserve to die that way. She would give everyone a second and third chance. She was very giving."

Kronsberg once referred to himself as "a 29 year old boy that needs to get his life together" on his Facebook page - which had a cover photo of the bloody chainsaw scene from the film "American Psycho."

Previous versions of this story incorrectly stated that prosecutors confirmed a potential guilty plea by murder suspect Robert Tilghman Kronsberg. That information was provided by the victim's family and coworkers.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.