UNA DIZDAREVIC'S world came to a screeching halt at 1:13 p.m. Thursday as she sat in a Kentucky airport waiting for her charismatic, bright-eyed big brother to get off a plane from Philadelphia.
It was Derby weekend, and Dino Dizdarevic, 25 - the life of the party - had friends to catch up with and outings to attend. So when he never arrived, Una, 22, knew something was horribly wrong.
"That's when I realized he was missing, because he wouldn't do that to anybody," Una said yesterday. "He would have let somebody know."
Her feeling was dead-on: Law-enforcement sources said Dizdarevic's body was found partially clothed and beaten unrecognizable in a weeded alley on Parker Street near 9th in Chester about 7 that morning.
Dino Dizdarevic, whose family had fled to Kentucky from Banja Luka, Bosnia, in 1995 as war refugees, had no wallet when he was found. It wasn't until he was reported missing to Philadelphia police over the weekend that cops in Chester were able to identify his body.
Just what drew the handsome, raven-haired chemical engineer - who moved from Louisville to a North Philly loft with his boyfriend in August - to the gritty town 18 miles south is a mystery. Neither his sister nor his boyfriend of nearly two years, Nick McBee, could imagine why he'd go to Chester, where both said he'd never been before.
"I don't think he even knew anything about Chester," McBee, 27, said yesterday, his voice faltering.
All McBee knew Wednesday night, the last time he talked to his boyfriend, was that Dizdarevic had been going to visit a friend "south of the airport." McBee said he doesn't know how Dizdarevic got to Chester; he'd had a drink at the apartment when he got home from work, and he was always careful not to drive after drinking even one. He left his car near his apartment.
"We don't know a thing," a shell-shocked McBee said, pausing for deep breaths. "We think it was a cab, but we don't know."
Police have not determined a motive or suspect in Dizdarevic's killing, but a source with knowledge of the case said detectives are not ruling out the possibility that he may have gone to Chester to meet someone for sex.
McBee balked at discussing that possibility yesterday, saying, "The only thing we can say is that he was brutally assaulted and strangled. We just don't know."
A close friend of Dizdarevic's from Louisville said yesterday that despite friends' warnings, Dizdarevic sometimes used websites or mobile dating apps to meet people.
What's clear is that Dizdarevic's killing has torn apart lives and crushed his and McBee's dreams of marrying, buying a house in Philly - where Una said her brother wanted to move because of his favorite TV show, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" - and someday adopting kids.
Those dreams seemed within reach the last time McBee spoke with Dizdarevic. Both had just received good news - McBee, a job offer to work as a flight attendant; and Dizdarevic, a positive review at Stepan Co., a chemical firm in Fieldsboro, Burlington County, N.J., where he worked.
"My last conversation with him was he was so proud of me that I got the job and I was proud of him [because] he got a good review," McBee said through sobs. "We were just so excited about our future."
Vance Peers, 53, who called Dizdarevic his best friend, said that as soon as he went missing, he knew something was amiss.
"It wasn't going to end well. He was going to meet someone," Peers said of his gut feeling upon hearing Dizdarevic was missing. "Dino was so smart in some ways, but he was so naive when it came to dangerous situations like that. He was so nice, and he just thought everyone was nice."
Whatever the circumstances, Peers said, Dizdarevic's slaying has hit his numerous friends back in Louisville hard. "Everybody first fell in love with his looks, but then you realize he's this smart, caring person," Peers said. "He's the kind of person that doesn't come along too often."
Peers said Dizdarevic's parents are struggling to cope.
"I know the first thing his mom said is, 'I bring my family through a war to the U.S. and this is what happens,' " Peers said.
Una Dizdarevic went with McBee yesterday to try Peking duck, her brother's favorite dish, at a Chinatown restaurant he loved, Wong Wong, on Race Street near 10th.
This wasn't the way she imagined she'd spend her first time visiting the city with which her big brother - who graduated from the University of Louisville just a year ago - had fallen in love, at first through a TV show and then in real life.
"We're all devastated," she said. "There aren't words to describe what we feel."
Both she and McBee laughed when they remembered the goofy YouTube videos that Dizdarevic would make everyone watch and the way he changed his ringtone to the theme song to "It's Always Sunny" as soon as he moved here.
"He was so happy, and he was looking forward to life and enjoying every minute of it," McBee said. "He could just lift people up, you know? He'd lift me up."