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Shaw University mourns death of student who was struck, killed by car

Posted September 6, 2015
Updated September 7, 2015

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— A Shaw University student and former cheerleader was struck and killed by a vehicle early Sunday on New Hope Church Road in Raleigh, police said.

The road was shut down from near Atlantic Avenue to Green Road following the accident.

Raleigh police said Keyona Charlissa Verdell, 22, got out of a vehicle just before being struck by another car at about 6:15 a.m. Emergency personnel were taking her to WakeMed when she died on the way.

According to police, Verdell had been riding in a vehicle that was driven by Terrence Archibald, 29, and occupied by Verdell's best friend, Akiya Jones . Police said that Verdell made a voluntary decision to leave the vehicle and walk, despite attempts by Archibald and the other passenger to persuade her to reenter the vehicle. According to Archibald, the friends were not arguing but Verdell was upset and wanted to get out of the car.

As Verdell attempted to cross New Hope Church Road, she was struck by a Toyota sedan that was driven by Dimas Martinez-Ismal, 32. Martinez-Ismal was cited for operating a vehicle without a license.

"We love Keyona and we know she's in a better place," said Jones in a statement.

Investigators said Verdell had just left Luc Lounge with friends before the accident. Witnesses who live in the area said she was partially clothed.

Following the incident, Archibald and the female passenger came to the scene and, during a brief altercation, Archibald pushed Martinez-Ismal, causing her cell phone to break. Archibald has been cited for simple assault and damage to property.

Shaw University President Tashni Dubroy mourned Verdell's loss in a social media post, saying a memorial service will be held this week on campus.

Verdell, of Winston-Salem, was a third-year student majoring in business administration and management.

"Keyona was a woman with a bright future and beloved by so many here on campus," Dubroy posted. "We send our deepest condolences to Keyona’s family and will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers during this time of grief."

It is with deep sadness and regret that Shaw Bears mourn the loss of Keyona Verdell, daughter of Rosie Verdell. This is...

Posted by Tashni-Ann Dubroy on Sunday, September 6, 2015

Verdell's cheerleading coach, Tia Long, said that the team is hurting and are having a hard time coping with the death of Verdell.

Long said that she received the news when members of the team called her early Sunday morning.

She said that Verdell was a captain of the cheer team last year and had taken a break from the activity this semester but planned to return for basketball season. Verdell would often come by to help Long with choreography and Long said the last time she saw Verdell was Friday, when she stopped by a practice session. She said Verdell's last words to her were that she planned to attend Shaw's football game Saturday and would see her there.

"She's a really great person, wonderful personality, very creative. She brought a lot of energy to our program," Long said. "She led the team. Even times when I wasn't right there, she made sure everything was done."

Long says the cheer team plans to dedicate this season to Verdell.

"They want to dedicate this season to her, so they're going to come hard this season and they're going to do well," Long said.

This is the second time in three weeks that Shaw University is mourning the loss of a student.

Shaw student Bryant Williams, 26, died last month in a motorcycle accident. He was a third-year student and a member of the band. More than 100 people attended a vigil in his honor, including his five-year-old daughter.


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  • Sarcoi Dosis Sep 7, 2015
    user avatar

    Killed by an Unlicensed driver? That driver cited and let go? Wow, Raleigh PD sure has a healthy Double-Standard for certain groups...
    If I were operating a vehicle, without a license, likely without insurance, and I killed someone. I would fully expect to be behind bars for Manslaughter, unless of course my name was some variant of Martinez. In which case I'd be on the Greyhound Bus headed back South of the border.
    Boy, I Can't wait for Trump to fix this..

  • King Mopar Sep 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Prayers to the family over their loss. I am sure she was a bright light in the family and they were very proud of her. Via her picture, she just beams with personality. Again, sorry for your loss.

  • Sarcoi Dosis Sep 6, 2015
    user avatar

    It's a real shame about this young girl. There are Pedestrian Sidewalks on both sides of New Hope Church road, and Green Road. Was she in the roadway, maybe crossing to the other side when struck? I saw a car turn Right off Huntleigh onto New Hope Church when she struck 2 kids crossing the street. Looked like just bumps and bruises.

    I can see where it wouldn't be hard to strike someone in the street. It's pretty dark still at 6:15AM, and drivers don't exactly maintain the posted 35 mph limit.

    Still, Cross streets on foot in Raleigh, at any time of day or night is like playing Russian Roulette. I cringe any time I see someone crossing Capital Blvd, even when they are in crosswalks.

    Overseas, many major roads have Pedestrian overpass, or underpass. There is a great deal more pedestrian traffic in Europe. Still may not be a bad idea to have a couple of these on major Raleigh streets.

  • Kerri Barnhart Sep 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Agree with previous poster about risky pedestrians in Raleigh, but as busy as Raleigh is, pretty much no road in town is a risk (as far as heavy traffic) at 6:15 am on a typical Sunday. On Labor Day weekend? Even less of a risk, because hardly anyone is in town. My *guess* is that it was a fluke accident of timing/location/weather. I'm not going to speculate about why she got out of the car she was in -- I'm just saying that jaywalking is rarely a life-or-death move early on a Sunday morning in Raleigh.

  • Sarcoi Dosis Sep 6, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Before someone asks, Yes, I realize this accident was on New Hope Church. But I see people crossing Capital Blvd, completely ignoring the cross walks and "No Walk" lights. WRAL should set up a camera for a few hours, at Capital and Calvary, just to see how many people they can catch J-Walking.

  • Sarcoi Dosis Sep 6, 2015
    user avatar

    I see Pedestrians crossing busy streets going against red lights all the time. Busy Capital Blvd is NOT a smart place to play chicken with moving cars. A 150 pound human doesn't stand a chance against a 3,000 pound vehicle traveling at 45 mph..
    Maybe it's time for Raleigh to enforce it's own traffic laws, and especially the use of crosswalks?