Crime

Protesters surround church to ask for increased aid in wake of homeless woman’s death

Protest calls for downtown churches to increase help for the homeless

About two dozens protesters mourning the death of a homeless woman marched in front of the First United Methodist Church on Sunday. The woman, identified as Vanessa Mayfield, 31, was killed on the steps of a church building on Aug. 17, police said.
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About two dozens protesters mourning the death of a homeless woman marched in front of the First United Methodist Church on Sunday. The woman, identified as Vanessa Mayfield, 31, was killed on the steps of a church building on Aug. 17, police said.

About two dozen protesters mourning the death of a homeless woman last week assembled on steps of the First United Methodist Church on Sunday and repeated a familiar chant.

“No justice, No peace,” they screamed.

Police officers located the woman, who was later identified as Vanessa Faye Mayfield, 31, about 8:45 a.m. on Aug. 17. Mayfield was found at the base of a stairwell outside of a church building at West 4th and Burnett streets in downtown Fort Worth.

Mayfield suffered what authorities described as major head trauma, but the cause or manner of death is still pending, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.

Jared Holton Seavey, who has been identified by friends as Mayfield’s 21-year-old fiance, remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Sunday and is facing a murder charge.

Seavey’s total bond was set at $165,000 due to two additional charges of assault by impeding breathing or circulation, jail records show. The bond on the murder charge is $150,000.

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Jared Seavey, 21, was in jail Monday facing a murder charge in the death of Vanessa Mayfield. Courtesy Fort Worth Police Department

Some of those visiting First United Methodist Church on Sunday while the protesting occurred stopped by to speak with marchers about why they were protesting and explain the scope of the church’s homeless ministry.

Those marching thanked them for their outreach and continued to shout.

Jeff Hood, a Denton-based activist and pastor at the protest Sunday, asked a church administrator if downtown churches could work in unison to help provide sanctuary for the homeless Fort Worth population.

“What does it say to people when our sanctuaries are closed?” Hood asked.

Some protesters who were at the church on Sunday also protested in front of the Tarrant County Jail on Friday, saying the amount of bail set for Seavey was too low.

Protesters also questioned whether church members cared that a homeless woman had been slain on church property.

First United Methodist Church circulated a letter last week acknowledging that Mayfield was found dead on the church campus and was a member of the church’s faith community.

“Unfortunately, there may simply be no answers to how and why this tragedy befell this mother of five, the youngest of whom is a 6-month-old baby,” the letter said.

The letter also explained that there were structural barriers that made it difficult to secure the church grounds 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The church provided space for mourners to commiserate with each other on Tuesday about Mayfield’s death, the letter, which was signed by pastor Tim Bruster, said.

The letter also said that Mayfield was a domestic violence victim and that the church also has an outreach mission designed to help battered women, according to John Howard, First United Methodist Church executive director.

The ministry, called the Methodist Justice Ministry, has three attorneys who are involved with the mission and provides legal, financial and other help to indigent women and children who have been victims of domestic violence, neglect and abuse, Howard said.

Still, Howard said, there is more that should be done.

Hood agreed.

“The community and Jesus are calling on us to do more,” Hood said.

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