Crime

Suspect in homeless woman’s murder was fiance who claimed to be ‘out of town,’ friend says

Woman slain outside downtown Fort Worth church

Vanessa Mayfield’s friends mourned her death at a vigil Tuesday night near where she was slain. Mayfield’s body was found Saturday at the base of a stairwell outside First United Methodist Church at West 4th and Burnett streets.
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Vanessa Mayfield’s friends mourned her death at a vigil Tuesday night near where she was slain. Mayfield’s body was found Saturday at the base of a stairwell outside First United Methodist Church at West 4th and Burnett streets.

Vanessa Faye Mayfield hadn’t been answering her phone Saturday morning, so Flanery Chelsea, her fellow homeless friend, went to Facebook to see if she could explain her silence. And one post made her fear the worst.

A woman who used to date Mayfield — who was bisexual — was announcing she had lost an ex-girlfriend. Wanting confirmation, Chelsea, 24, reached out to the woman, who confirmed Mayfield, 31, had died.

Chelsea said she knew she next had to get in contact with Jared Seavey, Mayfield’s similarly homeless fiance who had only been dating her for about two weeks.

But she didn’t yet know he was suspected in her killing.

“Is vanessa ok??” Chelsea wrote to Seavey on Facebook on Saturday afternoon.

“I dont know im out of town,” Seavey responded.

Seavey went on to say in their exchange that he was “praying it’s not her” and “loved her to death,” before questioning why he had to lose Mayfield. Although Chelsea hadn’t met Seavey, she said Mayfield had talked often about how he had a job at a restaurant in downtown Fort Worth and would be able to take care of her.

Chelsea, whose husband is Mayfield’s cousin, found out Monday that Seavey was arrested on a charge of murder in connection with the death.

In the time since, she has dwelled on their final interaction, and the possibility that Seavey was trying to avoid suspicion by acting normal.

“I’m hurt, I’m upset,” Chelsea said, “... because she’s been through a lot with her other relationships and she had told me that she thinks she finally found someone that could treat her right and help her to get her life together.”

In addition to murder, Seavey, 21, is charged with two counts of assault by impeding breathing or circulation, according to online Tarrant County jail records.

Mayfield’s death, and the arrest of the man who said he was going to marry her, has shaken those who believed the homeless woman was on a better path.

Robert Golden, 40, found Mayfield’s body about 8:45 a.m. Saturday as he walked to a store. She was at the base of a stairwell outside First United Methodist Church at West 4th and Burnett streets.

“You could tell it was a big time struggle,” he said. Blood was on the building’s exterior wall.

Mayfield suffered what police described as major head trauma. Autopsy results are pending.

Another friend, LaToya Stevens, said she had encouraged Mayfield to seek out homeless shelters.

“But she didn’t listen to me,” Stevens said.

Mayfield had been homeless for about 10 years, Chelsea said. She had five children — her youngest was a 6-month-old girl — whom her sisters and mother would look after, she said.

Mayfield posted on Facebook in late July she was in a relationship. After that update, she went on to share several pictures with Seavey in which they were smiling together.

Seavey was a server at a downtown restaurant, Chelsea said. Mayfield was trying to enroll to receive disability benefits through MHMR Tarrant County.

The two appeared to have a loving relationship, at least on the surface, Chelsea said.

“I’m hurt by that,” she said.

‘We took care of Vanessa’

Chelsea, who has had no home since she was 14 and left her family, said the homeless population in Fort Worth is like a community.

“Everybody takes care of everybody,” said Chelsea, who has a husband. “We took care of Vanessa the best we can.”

She met Mayfield around the time she was 17, when they were living in an abandoned home together, she said. They became friends, she said, and she and her homeless husband would care for Mayfield despite their own troubled situation.

Chelsea, who has a new job at a home health care facility, said she would occasionally buy Mayfield clothes or food. Sometimes, she and her husband would sleep outside with Mayfield in various parts of the city.

The last time Chelsea saw Mayfield in person, she had booked a hotel room and invited her to stay with her. They ate pizza and talked.

“I bought her some clothes,” Chelsea said, “and I bought her a backpack and everything.”

That was Aug. 9, a Friday. On the following Friday, Mayfield asked her on Facebook what she was doing tomorrow, and Chelsea responded “work.”

Chelsea tried calling her the next day, but there was no response.

She said she initially believed Seavey when he said he didn’t know what had happened to Mayfield, and that he was upset and had been “ready to marry her.” But, after hearing of his arrest, she said she changed her thinking.

“It really creeps me out,” she said of their conversation.

Seavey is being held in the Tarrant County Lon Evans Correction Center, according to jail records. He has a combined bond of $165,000.

Chelsea said she wishes the bond were higher.

‘A wonderful friend’

Mayfield, Chelsea said, was always genuine and honest with her friends, not mincing words. But she was also known to be sweet and funny.

Homeless citizens will miss seeing her on the streets, Chelsea said.

“She was a wonderful friend, a wonderful mother ... a wonderful daughter,” she said. “She was an amazing woman.”

Mayfield’s friends mourned at a vigil Tuesday night near where she was slain.

They talked of her wild hair, laugh and obstinacy.

They lit candles and sang “Amazing Grace.”

Staff writer Emerson Clarridge contributed to this report.

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