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December 29, 2002

Family tries to understand slaying that took a mother of two

From: San Antonio Express, TX - 29 Dec 2002

By Jesse Bogan
San Antonio Express-News

Walk into the Fifer home and you see a woman's touch.

There are crosses and hanging beads strung with lace by the same hands that helped her articulate her wedding vows.

There are a lot of photographs, too, because her family says that was Trishawn Fifer's "thing" in a quiet world.

Fifer, who was deaf, communicated with her hands and self-expression, but family says she wasn't disabled.

"If she couldn't understand what I was saying, she'd put her hand on my chest. She'd tell me to say it again, 'Say it again!' until she understood," DiAndra Wilson, a sister, said Saturday as family gathered in the Fifer home on Terra Oak Drive.

They were making funeral plans for Fifer, a 28-year-old mother found Thursday morning strangled at the foot of her bed.

"Do we want a wake?" Wilson asked.

Ruth Lunbery, a friend from Leon Valley Baptist Church, signed the question to Nathaniel Fifer, Trishawn's 46-year-old husband, who also is deaf.

But Patra Williams, Trishawn's grandmother, tears dripping from under her sunglasses, said: "No, it's too hard."

Fifer was her first granddaughter.

"Trishawn loved everybody," Williams said.

That she was a peaceful person is the most puzzling part of her violent death, Wilson explained and tried to understand.

"People who were mean and hateful, you put my sister in their path," she said. "They'd act like they didn't want to smile. She couldn't make an enemy. It's so hard to think of why anybody would want to kill her. She liked anything. She ate anything. She was an angel here on Earth."

Nathaniel Fifer said his wife was five months pregnant and they had not decided what they were going to name their third girl. Their other daughters, Jolie, 4, and Mary, 2, witnessed the crime, he said.

"My heart is broken because my wife is gone, and now I am alone," Nathaniel, hands thumping against his chest, said as Lunbery translated. "I know she has gone to heaven."

San Antonio homicide detectives were following up leads in the case Saturday, but named no suspects.

Growing up

When Trishawn was 6 months old, she came down with a case of spinal meningitis that seared her ability to hear, her mother, Marilyn Wilson, said.

Wilson learned sign language so she could communicate with her first of three daughters.

Fifer, whose maiden name was Cokely, was raised by Marilyn and Duane Wilson, whom her mother married when Fifer was 5. The Wilsons later had DiAndra, 22, and Lynette, 14.

Fifer's biological father died when she was 12.

She went to the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin until she was 5. Then the family moved to Houston and Virginia before settling in 1990 in Universal City.

Fifer played basketball and ran track in the Special Olympics. As a youngster, she danced tap, ballet and jazz.

"Even being hearing impaired she could feel the vibration," Wilson said. Still, her mother said she was nervous watching the dance recitals.

"I was always afraid that she would be off," she said. "But she was right with them."

At her sister's sweet 16 party, DiAndra Wilson said her friends saw Trishawn swaying off the beat while sitting in a chair.

"They were like, 'She can't dance,'" DiAndra Wilson said. "When I told her that, she was off the chain."

Fifer told the DJ to turn the music up and proved the doubters wrong.

She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1995 and then Methodist Mission Home, a school in San Antonio where she met Nathaniel, who is a laborer at Helmy Associates & Co.

Nathaniel said it's important that his daughters come to their mother's funeral because the last time they saw her it was very "busy" with commotion and uncertainty.

"One last time to see her peacefully," he said.

A visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Sutton & Sutton Mortuary, 320 S. W.W. White Road. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday at Leon Valley Baptist Church, 7990 Grissom Road.

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