Mother says girl kept in touch with father throughout the day
Yashanee Vaughn was hardly allowed to roam the streets on her own, her family insists.
The 14-year-old girl - whom police say was murdered March 19 under yet-unknown circumstances - was allowed to ride the bus only with friends and had a strict curfew, according to her mother, Shaquita Louis.
'She had to be in by 9 (p.m.), or no Facebook or cell phone - and she didn't want that. Her cell phone was her life,' Louis told the Tribune on Tuesday afternoon during an interview at Yashanee's grandmother's house in outer Southeast Portland.
Besides, Louis says, Yashanee also had someone constantly checking up on her: Yoshawnee Vaughn of North Portland, her father, with whom she had a tight bond.
'In order for her to have that phone, he called her every three hours and she had to pick up, even at school,' Louis says. 'She was daddy's girl. Anytime she felt anything about a boy, he'd be there to pick her up.'
Yashanee looked up to her father so much, she liked to spell her name with a 'w' in the middle, like her dad's name.
'With me, she did the girly stuff,' Louis says. 'With her dad, she'd get in the truck, kick her legs up, beat her head to the music.'
Louis - who also has four sons, ages 19, 18, 10 and 7 - had a close relationship with her daughter.
'We talked about boys, stuff I went through as a teenager, stuff I didn't want her to go through,' Louis says.
One such experience for Louis was having a child at age 13. 'She said, 'Please, mom, I do not like kids,'' Louis recalls.
Tribune Photos: Christopher Onstott • Yashanee loved the color red (hence the release of red balloons), singing, dressing up and social networking. Her family is desperately seeking a resolution to the case.
Ear to the door
Yashanee loved her clothes, jewelry, shoes and makeup. She loved to sing, and her nickname as a little girl was 'Angelica' - after the pigtailed animated Rugrats character known for her bossiness.
'When she played house with her cousins, she had to be the mother - it was her way or no way. She'd pick her cousins' clothes out, get them dressed.'
As for a career, she dreamed of modeling, 'like Tyra (Banks). … She was one of those girls that take all day to get dressed.'
On a typical school day, Louis says, her daughter would get up at 9 a.m. and hang out at home until around 3 p.m. She was enrolled in the evening program at the alternative Helensview School, where the schedule is from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
After school, Yashanee would ride the Helensview bus to the MAX station on Northeast 82nd Avenue, where she would catch a TriMet bus home.
Her daughter was a good student, Louis says, and dreamed of graduating from high school. When they went to the mall together, Louis says, people would assume they were sisters or friends. When boys looked at her, 'I'd be like, 'Hey, that's my daughter,' ' she says.
They could talk about anything, and Yashanee wasn't hiding anything, Louis says. 'I was so nosy in her business; I would literally have my ear to her door.'
Put up a fight
As the days and weeks drag on without any hint of where Yashanee might be, her relatives anxiously await a tip or any evidence in the case.
They're constantly monitoring Facebook and MySpace forums and distributing fliers with Yashanee's image and information; they plan to do so again Saturday at Holladay Park.
In the meantime, they're hoping the police will help fill in the blanks with answers.
Police, however, are keeping any details in the case close to the vest. All that's publicly known so far is that Parrish I. Bennette Jr., 16, has been indicted on charges of homicide and manslaughter in the case.
Police say he killed Yashanee March 19 with a handgun, and they have searched Rocky Butte extensively for her body, to no avail. Police say the investigation and search are continuing as more information arises.
Contrary to prior reports, Louis says Parrish was not Yashanee's boyfriend, just a friend. She thinks the two might have met at Open Meadow School, an alternative school Yashanee attended before Helensview.
Half a dozen posters with handwritten messages to the girl line the family's hallway, and a table filled with balloons, teddy bears, cards, bouquets and framed photographs fill an entire wall. Another wall is filled with a giant timeline of events leading up to Yashanee's disappearance and the investigation so far.
There's one thing the girl's family is sure of: if Yashanee was ever in trouble, she wasn't one to give up a fight.
'She gonna start swingin',' Louis says. 'She gonna put up a fight.'
Anyone with information in the case should call CrimeStoppers at 503-823-HELP for a reward up to $1,000. Or visit the family's website, yashanee.com.