Local News

Mother of Shaw student killed in pedestrian accident: 'She got her wings'

Posted September 7, 2015 4:34 p.m. EDT
Updated September 7, 2015 6:24 p.m. EDT

— A Shaw University cheer jacket is now one of Rosie Verdell's most cherished possessions.

The jacket belonged to Verdell's daughter, Keyona Charlissa Verdell, who died Sunday morning after being hit by a car while walking on New Hope Church Road in north Raleigh.

"I'm going to hold on to this jacket because, from middle school all the way to college, it represents her – going that far, and she did what she loved," a grieving Rosie Verdell said Monday in an exclusive interview with WRAL News.

Keyona Verdell, 22, was riding in a vehicle when she insisted on getting out and walking shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday. Police said her friends tried to persuade her to get back in the vehicle, but she refused and was hit by a passing car.

It's unclear why the junior business administration and management major got out of the car. Her friends told WRAL News on Sunday that there was no argument but that she was upset and wanted out.

A man told a 911 dispatcher, "She was intoxicated. She was walking home."

Rosie Verdell said the two friends in the car told her that Keyona wanted to go the store but they didn't want to at that hour. She said her daughter had a very strong will, so it didn't surprise her she decided to get out and walk.

She said she last spoke to her daughter Saturday night, and she regrets missing a call from her early Sunday.

"Unfortunately, the night it happened, she called me about 1:17, 1:18 in the morning. but we were sleep," she said.

Several hours later, the phone rang again in Rosie Verdell's Winston-Salem home, and one of Keyona's friends was on the other end.

"She said, 'Ms. Rosie, I need for you to come down. Something terrible has happened,'" Rosie Verdell recalled.

Rosie Verdell's son, Xzavier Rivers, got to WakeMed first, and he called her to let her know Keyona had died.

"She wouldn't have wanted to walk in there not knowing nothing, so I called her immediately and let her know that she's gone," Rivers said.

Police charged the driver of the car that hit Keyona Verdell, Dimas Martinez-Ismal, 32, with operating a vehicle without a license. No charges have been filed in connection with her death.

In a 911 call released Monday, a man can be heard angrily asking someone over and over how he could have run over Verdell.

"How'd you not see her, bro? She had that bright dress on. How'd you not see her?" the man said.

Police charged Terrence Archibald, 29, who was driving the car Verdell exited, with simple assault and damage to property in connection with a brief altercation after the accident in which Martinez-Ismal's cellphone was broken.

Funeral arrangements haven't been set, but Shaw plans to hold a memorial service on campus this week.

Rosie Verdell said she plans to remember her daughter's life and not how she died.

"She was a very beautiful person inside and out," she said. "She would say, 'Momma, I'm going to take care of you.' So, I guess, in her saying she's going to take care of me, she got her wings, and you know, it's more than one way of taking care of someone."