SEATTLE -- It’s a situation no one wants to be in: homeless and alone, sleeping on the cold streets. That’s the place Davina Garrison was in when she was beaten to death and set on fire on Thanksgiving Day 14 years ago.
The details of Davina’s lonely and grim demise in downtown Seattle struck the hearts of a group of women who walked past the spot where she was found every day on their way to work.
Mary Suhm is one of those women.
“This could've happened to anyone. We were horrified and we felt a need to stand up and be her friends and see that her murder was solved,” said Suhm.
The women never knew Davina, but they call themselves her friends. They’re dedicated to seeing her get justice and keeping her memory alive.
“She was a human being, she mattered, and this shouldn’t happen to anyone. And it’s as simple as that.”
The horror Davina endured in her final moments is what nightmares are made of, but activists and officials tell us this isn’t an isolated incident. The numbers that illustrate violence against Native women living on the streets are disturbing.
Colleen Echohawk is the executive director at Chief Seattle Club, a safe place that provides care and resources for American Indian and Alaska Native men and women experiencing homelessness. Before her murder, Davina was a member at the club.
Echohawk tells Q13 she believes there is about one sexual assault per week on their members.
“It’s heartbreaking, and it’s something that we need to be talking about,” said Echohawk. “If you are experiencing homelessness here in Seattle, the risk of violence is quite large. And we know especially if you’re Native too that risk increases, and I think we should ask ourselves why."
Echohawk says many Native women who’ve been murdered or gone missing, especially if they’re homeless, are too easily forgotten. It gives her hope to see people, strangers really, ensuring that won’t happen to Davina.
"This happened while we were celebrating Thanksgiving in our homes, and this woman was being murdered,” said Suhm, who is committed to fighting for justice for Davina.
“She was covered in garbage and set on fire,” said Echohawk. “Often the American version of Thanksgiving is this amazing wonderful thing and the juxtaposition of what happened to Davina on that day is really hard to think about.”
On this day the women who care so deeply about Davina honor her memory, as she lives on in their hearts.
The women who call themselves Davina’s friends have raised $4,000 for a reward for information on her murder. That combined with the $1,000 offered through Crime Stoppers brings the reward to $5,000.
If you have any information on her case you’re asked to submit an anonymous tip at www.P3Tips.com or call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).