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Knowing how much sympathy to have for Vanessa Faye Mayfield, shown here with her most recent boyfriend, Sam, is tough. Photo by Jason Brimmer

Friday, August 16, was much like most other days for Vanessa Faye Mayfield. Like many of our city’s homeless, she hung out at the downtown library from the time it opened at 10 a.m. until it closed at 6 p.m.  Jared Seavey, her new boyfriend, was with her until he reported to his afternoon shift at nearby Uno Pizzeria & Grill. Seavey worked until 10 p.m., at which time he, Mayfield, and one of Mayfield’s girlfriends walked to the nearby Hooters. It was here that Mayfield begin crying and telling her friend that she was going to break up with Seavey. Footage from downtown cameras shows that after leaving Hooters, Mayfield and Seavey sat at a table near Sundance Square. After a short time, Mayfield walked away. Seavey followed. 

The following morning, shortly before 9 a.m., a 911 caller reported that a female who was bleeding heavily was at the bottom of a set of stairs located outside a basement entry door on the east side of the First United Methodist Church downtown.

“It was extremely difficult to determine the degree of injuries due to the heavy amount of blood covering her head and face,” said Fort Worth police detective Matthew Barron, the lead investigator. “We noticed that she did not have any of her belongings with her, which is unusual for homeless individuals.”

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Officers searched a nearby dumpster and found a rolling suitcase, bloodstained with a leather tag bearing the initials “JHS,” along with Mayfield’s clothes and medical identification bracelet inside.

“The Tarrant County medical examiner noticed what appeared to be a bloody shoe print on her chest consistent with the pattern commonly seen on soles of work-style boots,” Barron said.

Uno’s management told the detective that Seavey usually wore steel-toe work boots and that he typically carried a blue rolling suitcase when he came to work. One of Seavey’s Uno coworkers contacted Barron late that Saturday afternoon and offered additional information. At about 12:45 a.m., the coworker went out back to smoke. Seavey soon appeared, sweaty and with stains around the bottoms of his pants. Seavey said he needed to go to Rowlett and that he needed to call his mom. He said his girlfriend was trying to get him into trouble. She had gone crazy on him, Seavey said, adding that he needed to go to Mexico or even Brazil.

“I don’t know if she is still breathing,” Seavey allegedly told the coworker before adding, “I don’t think she is still breathing.”

Mayfield leaves behind five children, ranging in age from six months to nine years, and, according to my interview with Mayfield a few months ago (“Faces of Homelessness,” Nov. 28, 2018), all by different men, none of whom are serving as a father. The kids stay with Mayfield’s mother in the Weatherford area.

I interviewed Mayfield a few times, most recently regarding her experience with Child Protective Services. Her smile and personality were effervescent. I asked her one time why she lived this way, saying that with her personality, she could move beyond street life, maybe even get her kids back. She merely smiled and shrugged.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, Seavey caught a train to Rowlett, making it to his grandparents’ home where he occasionally stayed. Over the weekend, he developed a story that two black men had raped and murdered Mayfield. The grandfather, a retired Mesquite police officer, suspected Seavey was involved. He contacted a friend of Seavey’s who was working with Detective Barron. The grandfather agreed to drop off Seavey in Sundance Square on Sunday night. Police and a marshall were waiting. Seavey was arrested and is currently in Tarrant County Jail with a bond set at $150,000. 

Jason Brimmer, a talented photographer and friend who spends hours every week capturing images of our street-dwelling population (a new term I recently heard), said, “In my experience, most people on [East] Lancaster [Avenue] trade partners like they were at a square dance, so keeping track of who is with whom and what being married actually means in real terms can be impossible. Knowing how to feel about the people on the street and how much sympathy to have for their plight is tough. I know a great many of them quite well, and figuring out how to understand how much of their fates is their own making while still feeling sorrow over their situation and, sometimes, their deaths is difficult.”

Correction: In the print version, the man in the photograph is misidentified. He is not the alleged murderer. We regret the error.

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