Rosie Jenkins’ daughter, Vonda Donaldson, was full of life and laughter, loved her children and saw the best in people, the grieving mother said Monday.
Donaldson, 28, was strangled and beaten to death sometime between Sept. 29 and Sept. 30, and the man accused of her death is now in jail.
“I just want people to know she was a very good person,” Jenkins said, just minutes after seeing Steven Odell Bennett in court.
“She didn’t deserve this, period. She was a very happy young lady, a beautiful young lady. She was a very good mother.”
In the hours before meeting up with Bennett on Sept. 29, Donaldson attended her father’s wedding, then the reception and later dropped off her two girls — Angel Marshall and Adanna Donaldson — with her ex-husband, Rick Donaldson.
He always took the girls to church on Sunday, and Sept. 30 was no different.
“She loved to play with her kids. She would get out on the trampoline with them,” Jenkins said, a smile spreading across her face at the memory.
“She didn’t deserve to go down like this. She deserves the upmost respect and dignity.”
Jenkins knew her daughter had planned to stay in that Saturday and have drinks at home. She also knew Bennett would be there. Her daughter had known Bennett since her mid-teens and even though Bennett had been in prison the last 10 years, they remained friends.
“He was not her boyfriend. They were friends,” Jenkins said. “They had a history back when she was 14 or 15 years old.”
Jenkins said there had never been any violence between Donaldson and Bennett, and her daughter was good at seeing the best of a person.
“Steven Odell Bennett’s always been trouble but as far as hurting her before, no. She had a very big heart. She saw the good in anybody,” Jenkins said.
That included Bennett. And Jenkins wanted him to know just how much hurt he had caused, so she attended his arraignment Monday.
“I wanted him to look at me. He’s not a good person. He’s a bad person. Steven Odell Bennett took the only person who ever cared for him,” she said.
“Now I have to go and bury my daughter. I hope nobody else ever has to do this and feel what I feel.”
As for Donaldson’s girls, ages 9 and 4, “they’re doing good. They have the support of the entire family,” Jenkins said. “They have to grow up without a mom. It’s not fair to them.”
For Jenkins, closure where her daughter’s death is concerned will never come and she knows it will take a long time to heal.
“There will never be closure. The healing process is going to take a long time,” she said.
“Love your babies cause you never know, you never know when they’re gone.”
Jenkins said there has been a large support system that she’s grateful for and she also appreciates how hard Johnson City police work to make an arrest.
“The Johnson City Police Department has been wonderful. They worked around the clock. I couldn’t speak enough about our Johnson City police.”