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Remembering ten murdered women:
These are their names


by Cathy Ulrich

It’s 2018, and I am reading about dead women. I am reading about murdered women.

It’s 2018, and someone tells me there has been a mass shooting for almost every day of the year. This doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t even make me cry.

It’s 2018, and we have thoughts and we have prayers and we have so many names we have forgotten them.


In today’s paper, there is an article about a man pleading guilty to murdering his girlfriend at a friend’s house on the nearby reservation. The killer is named in the article; the house owner is named. They are both men. They are both men and they both have names.

The dead girlfriend is never given a name in the article.

She is called the woman, like Sherlock Holmes is doing the writing. The woman, the woman, like she never had a name, like she was never anything before she was murdered, like she was born a victim.


I couldn’t remember Tamara O’Neal’s name. She had just died a week ago, and I had forgotten.

When I googled “doctor shot by ex-boyfriend,” I found article after article about a white man injured (not killed) by his ex-girlfriend. Nothing on Tamara O’Neal.

I had to add “female.”

I had to say “female doctor shot by ex-boyfriend” to get her name.


It’s 2018. Eight of these women were killed this year; two in 2017, but their killers are still in the news, their killers’ faces were in my newspaper even last week. Nine of them were killed by men. Most of them were killed by someone they were supposed to be able to trust.

It’s 2018.

It’s 2018 and I am writing about murdered women.


1. Tamara O’Neal

She had a heart of gold. She was a doctor. She went the extra mile for her patients. This is what people said when reporters asked: She was a good person.

She was shot by a man after she broke off their engagement. He wanted the ring back, an article said. I don’t care what he wanted; I don’t care what any of them wanted. He shot her, he shot her, he shot her.

She was a doctor. She had a deep faith.

She was murdered.



2. Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind

The tattoo on her foot read “Too beautiful for Earth.” It was used to identify her body, after she was pulled from the river.

She was killed for her baby; she was killed by her neighbor. Her daughter was taking her first breath as she was taking her last—reporters sometimes like to say things like this.

She was from North Dakota and she was 22 and she was going to be a mother.



3. Justine Damond/Justine Ruszczyk

She was shot in an alley. She had called 911 to report an assault.

The report of her death says: “Upon police arrival, a female ‘slaps’ the back of the patrol squad. After that, it is unknown to [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] agents what exactly happened, but the female became deceased in the alley.”

“The female became deceased in the alley.”

Just somehow. Not that one of the cops pulled his gun, not that he shot again and again.

“Became deceased.”

She had just changed her name to her fiancé’s. She had a name.



4. Celine Walker

She was fatally shot in a Jacksonville hotel room. She was misgendered by the police. She was quiet; she didn’t go out much. She was the fourth transgender woman killed in 2018. It was only February.

When her murder was reported, she was called by the wrong name. The police said they had to go by official records, the records that gave a name she hadn’t used in years. Her name was Celine. Her name was Celine Walker.



5. Mollie Tibbetts

You know this one. We all know this one. She was jogging; she was murdered.

She wasn’t a symbol, she wasn’t a rallying cry for a border wall. She was a girl.

Her father said: “Mollie was nobody’s victim.”

Her father said: “Mollie’s my hero.”



6. Dr. Nancy Van Vessem

7. Maura Binkley

Their murdered had a history of “expressing misogynistic and racist views.” He wanted to touch women without their permission, wanted to hurt them, called himself an incel.

I don’t care what he wanted. I don’t care about him.

Dr. Van Vessem was faculty at Florida State University; Maura Binkley was a student. They were in a yoga studio when they were killed. They weren’t safe there. They should have been safe there.

They were “smart,” people said. They were “beautiful.”

They were murdered.



8. Alyssa Alhadeff

She was 14. She was a soccer player. She was one of 17 killed. She was one of 17 killed.

She was thinking of becoming a doctor someday. She probably hadn’t decided for sure—who knows for sure what they want to do at 14? She was an achiever, an optimist. Her mother said she didn’t like to lock the front door.

Her mother said: “Do something fabulous in your life. Be her voice.”

Be her voice.



9. Shannon Licht Morsette

She was a 31-year-old widow who lived on a reservation. She had a son who was out of town for the day. He found her at 1:00 a.m. He found her dead, lying in broken glass from nearby picture frames.

An article traced her day: she went to a neighbor’s for a shower because her water wasn’t running. She had some drinks with friends. They left when the arguing started, left the reservation, left her behind.

Her killer said he was urged to kill her by a “shadowman.” He said he hasn’t seen it since.

He says, he says, he says.



10. Sandra Parks.

She was 13.

She was 13.

She was 13.

She wrote an essay about gun violence that won a prize; she liked to put on her headphones and “le the music take her away.” She said this. She wanted to get away from the violence in her neighborhood; she wanted the world to be better. She was 13. She was in her house; “a stray bullet pierced her bedroom.” Her mother said she didn’t cry; her mother said she was peaceful.

Her mother said: “She didn’t deserve to leave this world like that.”

She was 13.


It’s 2018.

It’s 2018, and I am remembering as many names as I can.




Cathy’s story, “The Octopus Princess,” was one of our most read stories of 2018. And one of those stories that left our fiction editor in tears. Hot tip: usually when that happens, we publish that story. But it’s easier said than done, unless you’re Cathy. If you haven’t noticed, she’s pretty good at getting to all those feels.


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