Lynne Marino, mother of one of the seven women believed killed by Derrick Todd Lee and an advocate for families of crime victims, died Monday, her son confirmed.

She was 78.

Marino fought an almost yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer, her son Edward Piglia said. She was diagnosed in July.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” Piglia said. “I’m just so proud of her. She never complained.”

Piglia is the oldest of Marino’s four children. She leaves behind two other daughters, Ellen White and Nancy Thomas.

For most of their lives, her son said, Marino raised her children as a single mother while working two jobs and attending night school. She grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Redemptorist High School, Loyola University and St. Mary’s Dominican College.

“Her whole life was a battle,” he said. “That’s why my mother grew up tough. She always said she had a tough life but a good life.”

And that life got tougher on July 12, 2002, when her daughter, 44-year-old Pam Kinamore, disappeared from her Briarwood home in Baton Rouge. Her body was found four days later under Interstate 10 near Whiskey Bay.

Authorities believe Lee was involved in that death as well as the deaths of six others between 1998 and 2003: Charlotte Murray Pace, Gina Wilson Green and Carrie Lynn Yoder, all of Baton Rouge; Trineisha Dené Colomb, of Lafayette; Randi Mebruer, of Zachary; and Geralyn Barr DeSoto, of Addis.

After the death of her daughter, Marino became an advocate for the families of Lee’s other alleged victims and a driving force behind the investigation into the slayings, Piglia said.

Lee is currently on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for the first-degree murder of Pace. He also was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of DeSoto and sentenced to life in prison.

And, he’s accused of attempting to rape and kill Diana Alexander, of Breaux Bridge, who later testified against him at the DeSoto and Pace trials.

Evidence of Lee’s alleged involvement in the slaying of Kinamore was introduced at his 2004 first-degree murder trial in the Pace killing. Marino attended that trial, as well as Lee’s 2007 direct appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, where she sat in the front row. The Supreme Court affirmed Lee’s conviction and death sentence in January 2008.

Marino also attended every post-conviction hearing as Lee sought a new trial.

Ann Pace, mother of Charlotte Murray Pace, who was killed six weeks before Kinamore, formed a friendship with Marino over the slayings of their daughters and their fight for justice. She sat by Marino’s side at every court hearing in Lee’s case.

“She was a warrior, just a warrior,” Pace said. “We were soldiers together in our efforts to find justice. I’ll miss her enormously.”

When her daughter died, Pace said, she was overcome by fear and grief, not knowing where to turn. She heard about the rallies that Marino and her family had started for Pam, which inspired her to take action and join in the rallies, where she met Marino.

“It was a gift to know someone who understands this loss in this way and who understands dealing with the Louisiana court system,” Pace said.

The mothers’ mission was to make people remember the names of their daughters and the other women killed, rather than the name of their killer, Pace said. They also hoped to shed light on how easily DNA is used to exonerate someone accused of a crime while, at the same time, a DNA-based conviction can be dragged out for years in the courts, like Lee’s has.

“It’s illogical. It’s maddening and brutal for families,” Pace said.

Sterling Colomb, the father of 23-year-old Trineisha Dené Colomb, noted Marino’s public agitation during the investigation, as law enforcement tried to figure out the identity of the serial killer. “If she wasn’t in the forefront, I’m not sure what would have happened,” Colomb said. “She will be missed.”

Colomb’s wife, state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, said she was struck that Marino didn’t live to see the justice she had wanted: Lee’s execution. “We knew her passing away without Derrick Todd Lee being put to death hurt her a lot,” Dorsey-Colomb said.

“I learned a lot from her,” Dorsey-Colomb said. “She was fearless. She had great tenacity and she was very frank.”

In a Nov. 28, 2010, interview with The Advocate, Marino said she was at peace with Lee not standing trial directly in the killing of her daughter.

“Why spend the state’s money? I know he killed my child,” she said. “That’s why I’m adamant about him being put to death.”

Piglia said his mother has always been outspoken about the issue.

“It’s a shame she didn’t see that come to fruition,” Piglia said “My sisters and I promised her that we would see her mission through — that Derrick Todd Lee would be put to death and our faces would be the last he sees.”

Capitol news bureau chief Mark Ballard contributed to this report.