Local News

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

Posted September 6, 2015 8:12 a.m. EDT
Updated September 7, 2015 5:18 a.m. EDT

— 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.