10 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 24, 1997
amil members ocopeVwithi loss of ilam
Family said they had no knowl-
edge of abusive relationship
between Williams and Nelson
By Christine M. Palk
Daily Staff Reporter
DETROIT - Her mother, grandmother and sisters
remember a woman on the brink of success.
Tamara's mother, Yvonne Williams, sat teary-eyed
and motionless last night as she described losing her
"I just pray a lot and ask the Lord to give me
strength," she said. "That's the only thing that keeps
me together. We are pulling together."
"My daughter was a people person," Yvonne
Williams said. "We had a great mother-daughter rela-
tionship and talked about cool things."
Tamara's grandparents, Jeanette and Eugene Hart,
were the first family members informed of her death
by University Hospitals officials yesterday.
Jeanette Hart said she handled the news with sur-
"I heard the news," Hart said. "I was shocked at
first, you don't really expect things like this to
happen, but I'm OK. I've lived a long time to
know how to deal with tragedy. But it's still so sad
to know she's gone."
Tamara Williams was stabbed to death by her
boyfriend, Kevin Nelson, early yesterday morning.
Although Nelson was found guilty of domestic
assault in November 1995, Tamara's family did
not know about his violent past.
"I was never aware of the violence in their relation-
ship. You know how kids are, they always try to keep
anything bad away from you," Jeanette Hart said.
"This is the first time I even heard about the domestic
Tamara's mother said she didn't harbor anger
toward Nelson, only confusion.
"I couldn't even believe that this could happen from
the impression that I got from him," Yvonne Williams
said. "You know, we're not supposed to be angry, and
I'm not. I'm just confused. I'm not bitter. I just wish I
could've known about his past.
"It's not for me to judge why this happened," she
said. "All I know is that two young lives have been
stamped out for nothing."
Tamara Williams is survived by her 2 1/2-year-
old daughter, Kiera. The child's natural father was
stabbed to death by his girlfriend last year, so
members of Williams' family plan to raise the
"There are plenty of aunts and uncles," said
Jeanette Hart, who is a mother of 11, grandmoth-
er of 29, and great-grandmother of eight. "This
family is big and no one will let that child be
neglected. We intend to take very good care of the
Tamara Williams also leaves behind two sisters who
admired her determination and ability to juggle her
studies and the needs of her daughter.
Tonika Williams, Tamara's 18-year-old sister, sat
stiffly with her knees drawn to her chest as she thought
of her older sister.
"We were close, real close," she said. "She was so
kind, she always helped people. But you can't do noth-
ing about it. We can't bring her back."
Laconda Williams, Tamara's 32-year-old sister, was
horrified by the tragedy. "I feel a lot of love lost. My
"All I know is that two
young lives have been
tapd out for.
t - Yvonne Williams
family is in crisis," she said.
Tamara Williams' father, who is divorced from
Yvonne Williams, is aware of his daughter's deathbut,
was unavailable for comment.
Tamara Williams, 20, was an LSA senior major-
ing in general studies.
Despite all of her responsibilities to her famil
Tamara found time to excel in class, achieving a 3.
"She won a scholarship (to attend the
University), you know," Jeanette Hart said. "She
said that she loved school. She loved the University.
"Just three weeks ago, she called me and said,
'Grandma, I'm graduating in May, but I'm not going
to stop going to school.' She wanted to go to law
school" said Hart, adding that Tamara also tutpred
sixth graders and held a part-time job.
"I try not to think about (Tamara's death) and as
long as I know her daughter is safe, I'll be OK"
Tonika Williams said.
Funeral arrangements are being planned for
Saturday afternoon by Cantrell Funeral Home in
Neighbors could not stop the stabbings
mother holds a fami-
ly photo containing
three generations of
her family. Williams
is seated second
Pennamon said she
was surprised by her
death after Williams
and her boyfriend
seemed to be
getting along well in
Best friend shocked,
hurt by violent death
By Stephanie Hepburn
Daily Staff Reporter
The eyes of Tamika Pennamon filled
with tears yesterday as the knowledge
that her best friend had been killed
slowly began to sink in.
"I'm in denial, but I know that I have
to accept it and just think of all the good
times that we had," Pennamon said.
"I'm very disturbed. I just can't believe
that I saw her just yesterday."
Tamara Sonya Williams, a 20-year-
old LSA senior and mother of a young
daughter, was stabbed to death early
yesterday morning by her boyfriend
Kevin Nelson, 26.
Pennamon said she did not under-
stand what sparked Nelson's attack.
"When it comes to the possibility of
domestic violence you don't know
what's clicking in someone else's head,"
Pennamon said. "You can love some-
one, but you can never really know
someone. You always have to be really
Williams was no stranger to tragedy.
Last year, the father of Williams' child,
Kiera, also was stabbed to death by his
Pennemon said that despite
Williams' and Nelson's sometimes
rocky relationship, she could have
never foreseen this tragedy.
"When Tamara and I first met, I
knew that she had a restraining order
against Kevin in 1995, but that is the
only time I ever heard of any violence,"
Pennamon said. "Tamara would call me
and tell me that they had an argument,
but she only spoke of verbal disagree-
ment, nothing physical."
A letter to Judge Timothy Connors in
the Washtenaw County 15th District
Court about the 1995 charges of
domestic violence revealed Williams'
desire to have Nelson punished.
"All I ask is that Kevin Nelson be
punished for the abuse he put me and
my daughter through," wrote Williams
in the letter. .
But after he was released from
prison, Pennamon said that Williams
and Nelson got over their differences.
"She was a forgiving person, that's
ittki n of nercnn h.e w uac n"
sense of community.
"This is not behavior that we will tol-
erate," Burns said. "This was a bright
student about to graduate from the
University of Michigan. This is the
result of hopelessness, jealousy and
fear of the empowerment of women in
"We will not tolerate the infringe-
ment of any people that advance them-
selves," said Burns of Nelson's actions.
Pennamon said Williams was confi-
dent she could control her often volatile
"Tamara said that there were certain
things that she wouldn't take from
him," Pennamon said. "She felt confi-
dent that she could deal with him."
Pennamon spoke of the strength and
warmth of her lost friend..
"I'm in denial,
but 1 know thatI
have to accept
it and just think
of all the good
times we had. "
-- Tamika Pennamon
Williams's best friend
"It's so amazing what type of person
she was;' Pennamon said. "She was in
school, worked and raised her daughter.
Any little thing she could do, she
Williams even dedicated her week-
ends to spending time with the children
of her murderer.
"Tamara raised Kevin's two little
boys as if they were her own,"
And she said that Williams' kind
heart and protective nature may have
been the reason she ran from the house.
She may have run in order to protect her
daughter from seeing the stabbing.
"I can't imagine Tamara leaving the
house unless it was so Kiera wouldn't
ce wawn annn"Pnao
Continued from Page 1
campus police fired two shots, killing
Nelson, who is not affiliated with the
The officer, who's name will not be
released until an investigation is con-
cluded, was put on administrative leave
according to standard DPS policy.
Vice President for University
Relations Walter Harrison spoke at yes-
terday's press conference about the
tragic loss to the community and the
"Grief and sadness (is what) the
whole University feels," Harrison
said. "A talented and gifted senior at
the University was a loss to the entire
University of Michigan. All of us
grieve with her family during this sad
At 12:17 a.m. yesterday, DPS
received the first of many 911 calls
regarding a domestic dispute at the
Northwood Family Housing
Complex on the University's North
"I was awakened out of my sleep by
screaming," said Chris Baumann, a
neighbor of Williams'. "I dialed cam-
A number of neighbors saw her being
stabbed and heard her screams as they
called police and attempted to stop the
"I went out to try to stop it, but when
I was about 15 feet away, I saw the
knife," said Flagg, a 16-year-old
Northwood resident, whose mother is a
University student. "I just kind of pan-
icked. I didn't know if he would come
Flagg said that Nelson did not
acknowledge that a half dozen neigh-
bors were watching, and instead kept
stabbing the woman and shouting
"Everyone was begging him to get
away from her," Baumann said.
"He just kept yelling 'Look what she
made me do' and 'I've had enough, it's
over,"' Flagg said.
Baumann also heard Nelson "ranting
and raving about dying."
"I ran to the house, called the cops,
and looked for a bat or something,"
A DPS officer arrived on the scene
to find Nelson bloody and wielding a
knife. The officer told Nelson to put the
weapon down. When he did not
respond, the officer shot Nelson twice,
fatally wounding him. Both Williams
and Nelson died during surgery at
Venessa Coleman Barns, who co-
chairs the Presidential Task Force for
Violence Against Women, said the
neighbors responded appropriately to
Vice President for Student Affairs Maureen Hartford, Director of Housing Alan Levy and police and housing officials remove
Tamara Williams' personal possessions from her apartment and load them into her car for transport to her family members.
the incident by calling 911.
"The community responded the best
way they could. They did not turn their
backs," Barns said. "We need to get the
message across that this violence is
behavior that we will not tolerate."
Williams lived in the Northwood
complex with her young daughter,
Kiera. Nelson, who has been Williams
off-and-on boyfriend for about three
years, moved into the apartment about
six months ago.
Kiera was placed in protective cus-
tody yesterday and then turned over to
her maternal grandparents, who live in
Detroit. Kiera's father was stabbed to
death last year, and neighbors are work-
ing to organize a fund for Kiera.
While Nelson had lived in the
Northwood apartment complex two
years ago, he had just moved back in
with Williams about six months ago
and the couple had fought sporadically
"They just moved in a little while
ago," Flagg said.
Another neighbor, who asked that his
name not be used, said that this was not
the first time the couple fought.
"They have a history of fighting. I've
seen Tamara bruised a couple of times,"
he said, adding that he had heard the
two "argue about three weeks ago."
Residents around Northwood, a
series of two-story wooden duplex
apartments, where University married
couples and students with children live,
were shocked by the incident. Most
heard about the tragedy when they
awoke to police cars and a media fren-
zy this morning.
"In the morning, I met some police
officers," said Seung Lee, a Northwood
resident. "They asked me some ques-
tions and I told them I hadn't heard any
Fidelia Friedman, another
Northwood resident, said that
Northwood has a family atmos-
"We're so used to seeing everybody
outside. The kids play (outside),"
Friedman said. "Sometimes people get
mad, but we didn't expect this. It's
Residents said that Williams usually
kept to herself, though they traded
greetings when they passed each other
near the complex.
Pennamon said she is in a state of
denial over the murder.
"I'm very disturbed," Pennamon
said. "I can't believe that I saw her
just yesterday." The two friends
planned to work together yesterday
on a paper that is due for a class next
Pennamon also said that her
boyfriend had talked to Nelson on
Monday, when he talked positively
about his relationship with Williams.
She said that Williams had forgiven
Nelson for the previous abuse
"Tamara was a forgiving person,
that's the kind of person she was,"
"My boyfriend talked to Kevin yes-
terday about Tamara's 21st birthday and
what we were going to do for it,"
Pennamon said. "Kevin told ny
boyfriend that everything was OK, that,
he and Tamara were back on track. They
were straight again."
Pennamon said something must hav.
happened late in the night.
"I just don't understand because:
Tamara told me everything," Pennamon
said. "She would have said last fiight
when I called that something was
At a news conference yesterday
morning, University officials acknowl-
edged that a lot of questions are still left
unanswered - the foremost questi*
"We just learned about this at 12:17
a.m. We don't know all the answers,"
said University Dean of Students
DPS spokesperson Elizabeth Halt
said DPS will release any unkiiOwni
information as soon as the police
unearth details about the crime.
When the DPS investigation of the
incident is complete, it will be turne
over to the Washtenaw Coun
- Daily Staff Reporterv'Ahtc
Robinson and Jennifer Yae iin
contributed to this repow.
Friends continue to
mourn in wake of deaths.
Continued from Page 1.
shared a loving relationship.
"It wasn't just a troubled relation-
families and their children can freely
"We have a daughter the same age:
(as Williams' daughter). I feel really sad
that she's gone,' said Northwood resi-
________ _____n -