Domestic abuse takes center stage in East Texas Friday evening, days after Alicia Benefield, 19, was found dead in the woods, and her boyfriend put behind bars.
The prayer vigil in her honor was a wake-up call to women of all ages, letting them know if they’re in an abusive relationship, they need to seek help before it’s too late. The hotline number to the Women’s Center of East Texas is (903) 295-7526.
Alicia Benefield was the oldest daughter to Tomekia Hudson and Aaron Benefield. She was a role model to her six siblings.
“I miss her and I wish this never happened…what Rodris did,” said Eric Benefield, Alicia’s seven year old brother.
Her father said she was a straight A student at Carthage High, and a track star.
“I just miss her,“ said her father Aaron Benefield.”
“I not only want the whole world to see this but also Rodris Webster, who is locked up over there, I want him to see how much love she had,” said her mother Tomekia Hudson.
Alicia Benefield’s life took a violent turn when she began dating Rodris Webster in 2013. Her father said the couple always argued, but one day in January, he said Webster attempted to stab his daughter and beat her so bad he took her to the hospital. That’s when the family pressed charges against him and put him jail. Her parents were unaware their daughter dropped the charges against him Mar. 5. Nine days later, she was murdered, and soon after, her boyfriend Rodris Webster was locked up after authorities said he confessed to being her killer. Webster is in the Harrison County Jail on a murder charge and also a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He has a $1,000,000 bond.
Throughout it all, Benefield's family said they're forever grateful, for the community being by their side, every step of the way. The family is asking the community to help them with funeral costs by dropping off a donation at any Capital One Bank. The family hopes the prayer vigil, along with sharing her story, will help someone else.
“It just makes you wonder what your kids are exposed to nowadays,” said Teena Brents, who came to the vigil to support the family.
“A lot of times, they just take it and suck it in and don’t cry for help. So this is a wake-up call for all of the mothers to look out and listen to your kids.”
The family, along with Marshall Against Violence, are working on a law in honor of Alicia Benefield, to prevent charges from being dropped in domestic abuse cases.
“ I feel like if they wouldn’t have let him out, this would’ve never happened. This could’ve been prevented,” said Stephanie Benefield, Alicia’s stepmother. “She’s young, and we as her family and parents, everybody who loved her, we did the right thing by going to the law and they shouldn’t have let him out.”
In Marshall, the Women’s Center of East Texas has advocates trained to help women escape from abusive relationships. Denver Thomas, one of its advocates, said often times women drop charges against their abuser because the abuser or the abuser’s family pressures them to do so. Before doing anything, Thomas advises women to seek help at the Center and to also discuss the matter with the District Attorney. Since every case is different and often times the abuse worsens when a woman tries to leave the relationship, Thomas said the best thing to do is seek help from the center first. There are also safe houses in Mt. Pleasant, Longview and Shreveport. The Domestic Violence hotline is 1-800-441-5555.
Alicia Benefield’s funeral is Saturday, Mar. 29, at 2 p.m. at Downs Funeral Home in Marshall, TX.