Centering Women’s Stories, like Rhonda’s
Before 36-year-old Rhonda Jones was identified as a murder victim found on April 17th, 2017 in Robeson County, she was simply a daughter, sister, friend and mother. Before headlines, documentaries and controversies surrounded her name, Rhonda was loved by those who knew her best. Her mother, Shelia Price, wants the world to know that there is more to Rhonda’s story than what the media cares to share on the third anniversary of her unsolved death.
Price is part of a growing number of victims’ families who say they are frustrated by a lack of public transparency and tired of being ignored by the media and later exploited by sensational stories. The 3900-plus group seeks to raise awareness about Rhonda’s case and the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Robeson County. That’s one of the reasons Sheila founded the outspoken advocacy group “Shatter the Silence.” She shares Rhonda’s story weekly in hopes that someone will come forward with information.
Momma Shelia describes Rhonda as “smart.” In her youth, she was mathematically inclined, so much so, the school system flew her to Oakland, California for an academically gifted student meeting at age 13. “She was so smart she could have been anything she wanted,” Price recalled.
Price said Rhonda met challenges after her first pregnancy at age 14. She left school but eventually earned her GED at 18. “I said, ‘Rhonda, I will make a deal with you, if you will go back to high school so will I,’” Price explained. “She enrolled a couple of weeks later. We both finished at the same time. She graduated top of the class and I got second.”
Rhonda went on to take classes at UNC Pembroke and worked for American Indian Mothers Inc. AIMI is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization serving the education, health, social service, and agriculture and cultural needs of American Indians (AI) and minorities residing in North Carolina.
Our thoughts are with her family as they gather this weekend to memorialize the three-year anniversary of Rhonda’s death. The gathering will include: children Olivia LaRhonda Jones, Ethan Deese, Ian Deese Jr., Teliana Celine Deese, Jimmy Deese, sister Shirlyn Whitaker, brother Ronnie Boothe Jr; granddaughter Lydiah Jones and Rhonda’s mother Shelia Price. It’s a bittersweet time of celebration, as on March 31st the world welcomed the birth of Novah Janae’ Lynn Clark. The latest addition to the family has Rhonda’s middle name “Lynn.”
Despite years passing, the grief of Rhonda’s death is still fresh for her family. Many still hold out hope there will be justice for Rhonda and others. Rhonda wasn’t just a statistic or victim, she was a woman whose story lives on through a loving family. Let’s help them Shatter the Silence.
Co-Director, Women AdvaNCe womenadvancenc.org