Slain student remembered by family, friends

Danielle Directo

Shontae Treniece Blanche was always the peacemaker of her family. When her aunt and mother, Pauline and Mildred Hayes, argued, Blanche would break them up.

“She’d give me that look and all of a sudden I’d freeze,” Pauline Hayes said. “All the negative force would come out of me. She was like a little saint, always wanted to stop people from fighting.”

Shontae was anything but violent and wanted to become a parole officer to improve her community, Pauline said. Blanche, a part-time CSUN student, had been attending classes to reach her goal of working in law enforcement.

“She kept seeing other people in the neighborhood getting in trouble and she didn’t know why,” Pauline said.

Thirty-year-old Eboni Abram, who grew up in the same area as Blanche, said, “Despite the negative life that our community sometimes gets from living in the inner city, she overcame her obstacles.”

When the pregnant 22-year-old was killed two weeks ago at a South Los Angeles gas station parking lot after what was supposed to be a peaceful meeting with other women, her family was stunned. It wasn’t Blanche’s nature to be involved in such a fight, they said.

Though previous reports indicate that as many as 30 women were involved, it was only a group of about 10 to 12 women who met at the gas station on Monday, Nov. 5 to discuss a man that 21-year-old Unique Kiana Bishop and another woman had been romantically involved with, Detective Matthew Gares said. Blanche was accompanying another person, but Blanche and Bishop didn’t know each other, Gares said. The incident doesn’t appear to be gang-related, Gares said.

Blanche tried to break up an argument between two other women, Gares said. When the incident escalated, witnesses said Bishop walked to her car and allegedly drove toward a group comprised of four women, including Blanche and the woman Bishop initially argued with, Gares said. The car hit and killed Blanche and two other women were injured, one mildly and the other severely, Gares said.

Based on witnesses’ testimonies, police “presume it was a deliberate act” when Bishop allegedly drove toward the women, but the meeting wasn’t intended to end violently, Gares said.

Gares wouldn’t comment on how Blanche knew the other women or why she was at the gas station. Bishop is being charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, Gares said. Authorities said Bishop’s arraignment date is Nov. 26.

Blanche recently returned from New Orleans from her grandfather’s funeral several hours before, and her luggage were still in her car, Pauline said. Blanche met relatives in Louisiana for the first time and the family was excited for the baby, as “a new generation was about to begin,” Pauline said,

Helen Hayes, Blanche’s grandmother, said her granddaughter was picked up from the airport early Monday afternoon and came to her home, where friends said Blanche was reared.

“She came straight to my house and we talked a while,” Hayes said.Blanche then left to pick up a friend and have her car washed. Blanche didn’t mention the meeting to her, Hayes said.

A candlelight vigil was held for Blanche last Tuesday at the site where she was killed, and empty bottles of Hennessy and Courvoisier liquor were placed among more than 100 glass candles surrounded by stuffed animals and balloons. Family and friends, who struggled to understand how and why she became involved in the incident, reflected on Blanche’s life at the vigil. Many of her friends said they didn’t know the other young woman she accompanied to the meeting.

“I don’t know why she was there,” said 21-year-old Brittney Brown, whom friends described as Blanche’s best friend. They’d talk every day, and when she found out what happened, she “didn’t believe it,” Brown said.

Blanche’s friends said she and her husband, Emery, were married for two years and were trying to conceive a child. Blanche wanted a girl, and when she found out she’d be having a daughter, she chose to name her Emerion Dior after her husband, they said. The baby was due next April, her friends said.

Aliece Lawson, 34, talked about how the couple reacted to the news.

“They were both happy once they found out about the baby,” said Blanche’s longtime family friend. “Ecstatic is more like it, they were like, ‘It’s about time!'”

Now, Emery is “totally distraught,” Blanche’s friends said. Blanche died on the day her husband turned 21, Ebani Abram said.

Blanche’s husband is currently incarcerated for a violation, not a crime, Lawson said.

“They won’t let him come home, and he’s taking it very hard,” Abram said.

Blanche’s family and friends weren’t surprised that police said she was trying to break up an argument, but they still don’t understand why she went to the gas station that day.

To make a donation to the Shontae Blanche Memorial Fund, contact Bank of America Assistant Manager Razonya Collier of the 4103 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles branch at (323) 290-2983.

Slain student’s family seek understanding

More than 60 family members and friends of Shontae Blanche gathered last Tuesday at the 76 gas station parking lot on Slauson and Western avenues, where the young woman was slain a week before.

Rev. Leonard Jackson, senior advisor to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, attended the vigil and led a prayer for the group. Afterward, he spoke of his role as the mayor’s senior advisor and encouraged the crowd to speak their minds.

“I have the mayor’s ear,” Jackson said. “If you have something that you wanted him to know, what would it be?” Emotions were openly expressed. Pauline Hayes was the first to speak, blaming Unique Kiana Bishop for destroying her family. “This killer, what’s going to happen with her now?” Hayes said. “What’s in her mind? What suffering will she go through?” Jackson said, “I wish I knew.” Another family friend, who also didn’t identify herself, said parents need to take responsibility for their children.

“We got children out here that are dying every day,” the family friend said. “The problem is until the parents take their children back, we ain’t never gonna take these streets back. We can’t sit up and blame the white man or the blue man. It’s up to the parents. It’s as simple as that.”

One woman, who didn’t provide a name, spoke about the hardships of life in South Central Los Angeles and urged the reverend to pass along a message to the mayor to help their children.

“In spite of this tragedy, there is a group of young children and young adults that do know how to come together that’s not all about violence,” the woman said.

“If they start doing something to help our kids, maybe they wouldn’t turn to gang-banging, shooting, to steal, rob and kill if the black community could get some help from the mayor,” the woman said.

“Maybe our children wouldn’t have to resort to this type of life, wouldn’t have to live and die, but this is all they know because this is all the mayor, the president and whoever is giving our children,” the woman said.