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Cynthia Foxx sits on the bench dedicated to her daughter, Tiana Nicole Williams, a student accepted to the Brody School of Medicine who lost her life due to domestic violence. A program on intimate partner violence and the bench dedication marked the 10th anniversary of Williams' death. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Bench dedicated in memory of slain medical student

Oct. 16, 2012

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

A mother's message about domestic violence marked the dedication of a bench in memory of a murdered would-be medical student Monday at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

"She was a winner," Cynthia Foxx said of her late daughter, Tiana Nicole Williams, who was killed 10 years ago by a man she was in a relationship with. "If there was anything Tiana could do to help a human being, she would. As I walk around in this life, she is next to my heart."

Monday's dedication was part of a daylong-event at the Brody School of Medicine dedicated to Williams' memory and to identifying and protecting victims of domestic violence.

Dr. Peggy Goodman, an associate professor of emergency medicine at ECU, has served on the N.C. Domestic Violence Commission and was at Monday's events. "There's no justice that brings back a murdered family member," she said. "Her community lost a doctor, (her mother) lost a daughter, her siblings lost a sister. Nothing brings that back."

After Williams' death, four of her classmates -- Charlene Davenport, Tana Hall, Amy Howell and Andrew Southerland – worked to raise money to endow a fund to provide stipends to medical students to develop and participate in research and community service projects for the prevention of domestic violence.

Their classmates voted unanimously to establish the Tiana Nicole Williams Memorial Endowment. This year, second-year medical student Jenni Hoffman is the endowment scholar and is working on a project to identify new methods for screening victims of domestic violence.

Howell said domestic violence is often ignored or overlooked by society as well as the victims and their friends and families.

"I think people when they're in domestic situations their power has been taken from them," said Howell, a pediatrician who practices in Goldsboro. "They are being controlled and are ashamed of that."

In August 2002, Ronald Hendrickson beat Williams to death with a piece from a broken chair in an apartment they shared in Raleigh, according to police. The following year, Hendrickson was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. He's incarcerated at Central Prison in Raleigh.

Foxx said her daughter had been an honor student at Meredith College and always wanted to be a physician. But she sensed something was wrong in her daughter's relationship with Hendrickson, who was 17 years older than Williams.

"Tiana didn't just touch me. She touched a lot of people in her life," Foxx said. "Tiana wanted to save lives. She didn't deserve this."

More information about the endowment is online at The bench in her memory is in front of the Brody Medical Sciences Building.

An event that heightened awareness of domestic violence was held at Brody School of Medicine in honor of would-be medical student Tiana Nichole Williams. Williams' mother receives a hug at the event, pictured above.

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