On Oct. 26, Alice Norris did something she hadn’t done in decades — return to the site where her 14-year-old daughter, Rolanda LaKesia Marshall, was murdered.
Marshall was shot in the head on Aug. 28, 1993 while sitting with a friend inside of what a Beefee restaurant on the corner of North and Lockwood in Austin. In prior media reports, Norris said that her daughter had been conversing with a young man who was the intended target.
The young man was hit, but recovered. The friend was unharmed. Marshall, however, died while in a coma, nine days after she was shot.
Norris, who lived just blocks west of the restaurant at the time her daughter was killed, has since moved to Oak Park. She hadn’t been to this spot in years, she said. Twenty-five years later, Norris revisited the emotions she felt in the days and weeks after her daughter’s murder.
“It was very hard in the beginning for me to drive down this street, but I didn’t have any choice because I worked downtown and my street was a one-way going north,” she said, wearing various shades of purple, her daughter’s favorite color.
The restaurant is no longer in business, ceding space to another establishment, but the memories remain. So, do the conditions that resulted in Marshall’s death, Norris said.
“I never went inside of the restaurant before she was killed and I have never been [in the space] since,” she said. “Today is bittersweet and to come back home and to see all the changes over here, but to still know that the same kind of craziness is going on … these young people are shooting and killing each other at will and I’ve never understood why they are doing it.”
Norris is a member of Purpose over Pain, a group for parents who have lost their children to gun violence. She said the group regularly canvasses communities where the murders of their children are still unsolved.
Father Michael Pfleger, of St. Sabina, offers a $5,000 award for information leading to an arrest. As she stood on the corner, the temperature dropping to a frigid fall chill, Norris handed out flyers advertising the award to passersby.
“Unfortunately, many cases are not solved, which is pitiful to me,” Norris said. “It’s just a shame and it seems like it never stops. I would never have thought I’d still be dealing with this issue.”
Norris said that when she first moved to the area, her greatest fear for her daughter was crossing North Avenue. By the time Marshall died, Norris said that she suffered through another anxiety — one born of silence.
“Anytime a child is killed, it should be an outrage. When my daughter was killed there was really no outrage, all the outrage came from me,” she said. “On this block, from Laramie to Central, there were about five or six churches … none of them came out and did anything or said anything to me, and I knew they knew it, because everybody knew of the little girl shot in the Beefee restaurant.”
Norris, a breast cancer survivor, said that she’s now on a one-woman mission to get justice for her daughter. Time, she said, is of the essence.
“I want to find out who murdered her before I leave here,” she said.