Ashante Mayfield was more than a statistic.
Her aunt remembers a 14-year-old with a smile that could charm. “She loved jewelry and lip gloss, getting her hair done, like any other little girl,” Deborah Mayfield said.
If she couldn't express herself by speaking, she would get a pencil and paper and write down her innermost thoughts, said Mayfield.
Ashante Mayfield never got to celebrate her 15th birthday. On Tuesday, she was shot and killed in a seemingly trivial dispute. After several days, the 19-year-old woman accused of the crime turned herself in.
Already, Ashante's life has been reduced to cliché: runaway, teenage mom, victim.
Deborah Mayfield thinks about those headlines, and she can't sleep at night. To the aunt who loved her only niece, “She's being killed again.”
Ashante called her at 3 a.m. about two weeks ago. “Hey, Aunt Deb,” Mayfield recalls her saying. “I'm going to turn myself in. I'm ready to go back to school.” Mayfield can still hear Ashante's hopeful voice, promising – like teenagers everywhere – to do better, for herself and her 6-month-old son, Christopher Thoman Mayfield. “I'm serious this time.”
Mayfield offered to pick Ashante up, but Ashante – who had run away from foster and group homes over the last two years – wouldn't say exactly where she was.
Then, Ashante asked how her son was doing, and asked her aunt to take some pictures of him, just for her.
“Those pictures are still in my pocketbook,” Mayfield said on Friday.
She said of Ashante, “I can't imagine what that baby was going through.”
She talked about the girl with the nicknames: “Toot Loop,” given to her by Deborah Mayfield's mom, Ashante's grandmother, because it seemed to fit; and “Tuck In,” because Ashante, “a neat girl,” didn't like to leave her blouse hanging out.
Ashante could quote Scripture, Mayfield said, and would go to church – “night revival, weekend revival” – whenever she could catch a ride.
Mayfield, 52, a West Charlotte graduate, is former owner of a therapeutic massage business here. She moved back a little over a year ago from Los Angeles where she worked in commercial real estate for 15 years and lived for 30 years. But Mayfield spent vacations in Charlotte and kept in touch with her niece through her own daughter Latavia Mayfield.
The family would do things together, go horseback riding and visit the Afro-American Cultural Center and the mountains in Boone.
As Ashante drifted away from home, her cousin Latavia would get in her car and go looking for her. “Be careful,” Deborah Mayfield would warn her daughter.
Latavia would say in response: “I've got to find her.”
Deborah Mayfield has nothing but harsh words for the man in his late 20s – the father of Ashante's son, Christopher. “He's a pedophile,” she said of the man that everybody and nobody seems to know.
“She just wanted to be loved,” Deborah Mayfield said of her niece. She said that her sister, Ashante's mom, loved her daughter. “People show their love in different ways,” was all she said.
On Friday morning, Deborah Mayfield tried to care for Ashante – making sure her funeral program was just right, fitting for a little girl.
She prepared for a day with her own grandson, 15-year-old Cameron Mayfield. The plan called for back-to-school shopping and horseback riding. “We're going to talk,” Mayfield said, about Ashante – a 14-year-old girl, not a statistic, who never lived to fulfill her promise.