Tava Woodard sent her mom a humorous TikTok video last Thursday, and then a friend dropped her off for her work as a gas station cashier for her shift, which started at midnight.
The 23-year-old was slain less than an hour later.
Two males are accused of breaking into the Roadrunner Market in Johnson City, Tennessee. Woodard cooperated with all of their requests and gave them money from the register, but she was still slain.
On June 2, 2023 at approximately 12:55 a.m., officers of the Johnson City Police Department responded to a death…Posted by Johnson City Police Department on Friday, 2 June 2023
Strangers rallied and phoned in information to law enforcement as the community united and joined the hunt. A father and son were arrested and charged with murder in connection with her death on Tuesday.
Woodard’s shift began rocky that evening, June 2. Her mother, 45-year-old Melissa Jones, says that she contacted friends and colleagues about a minor theft incident and expressed a desire to find a new job.
A customer came in shouting and screaming, stealing some chips, Jones explains.
She messaged that she didn’t feel safe there anymore, recalls her mother. From what she is hearing, none of them felt very safe — this is all over the place, so she’ll say it. All of her employees said the ‘panic button’ beneath the counter wasn’t functioning — it wasn’t even connected.
Soon later, two males entered the shop, fully clothed from head to toe. According to officials, those guys eventually murdered her.
She had no possibility of contacting anybody to help her, her mother tells. What she is going to do? Take out her phone and make a call? And there is no ‘panic button’ connected. What is she expected to do on her own? Her mom won’t go into detail, but the police have informed her that she was extremely cool and collected, and that they were astounded to learn how old she was and how well she kept her composure and tranquility.
Tava Kristine Woodard had turned 23 the previous week. She celebrated her birthday with pretzel pizza and white cake with chocolate icing at her mother’s home in Dandridge, Tenn.
Woodard was a voracious reader. Her mother recalls that she always had a book with her, adding that her daughter adored Harry Potter and aspired to be a writer.
She and her mother received matching semicolon tattoos on her 17th birthday as a commitment to always be there for each other. Woodard also got a “Deathly Hallows” symbol tattoo to honor her Harry Potter obsession.
Woodard loved animals and would often rescue stray animals on the road and bring them to the shelter.
Her Appalachian mountain community has rallied behind her family after her passing.
Her mother adds that she had no idea how much of an impact she had on everyone else. She has received numerous messages and phone calls from people who care about her, telling her how amazing her child was and what a bright light she was for them. She always had a grin on her face, and everyone found solace in being around her. It’s incredible to know that the rest of the world noticed it in her.
Woodard was a social media activist who advocated for human rights. Her mother adds that she was never one to hold her tongue or not express her feelings. If she had felt it and believed it, she would have screamed it from the mountaintops.
She was also an advocate for her younger brother, Jace Woodard, who has Asperger’s syndrome and is 20 years old.
Tava was his strongest supporter at school and on the bus. She was always there for him, her mother adds.
Her 15-year-old sister, Addie Blazer, was also quite close to her.
She recalls that they were always together, literally laying on top of each other, hugging, snuggling, and holding hands. They just loved each other so much.
Due to the ongoing investigation, a representative for the Johnson City Police Department refused to speak on Tuesday.
In his almost 30 years of law enforcement experience, Johnson City Police Chief Billy Church said that this case is one of the saddest that he has come across.
Mark Anthony Sexton, Jr., 41, was charged with first-degree murder, exceptionally aggravated robbery, and operating an unregistered car, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s intake report.
Mark Anthony Sexton III, his 18-year-old son, was charged with first-degree murder, exceptionally aggravated robbery, potential firearm conduct of a dangerous crime, and manipulating with proof.
It was unclear if each person had entered a plea or engaged a lawyer.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Woodard’s family.
Woodard recently emailed a meme to her sister that stated, “If I die, don’t you dare release a bunch of balloons. I want you to plant flowers for me, so that I can continue to grow.” Now, the family is asking people to plant flowers “so that we can keep her alive and keep her with us,” her mother said.
The funeral for Woodard is set on June 10.
People from all across the globe have shared Woodard’s story and offered solidarity to her mother. Inside the business, a monument was erected, and incentives were offered for information leading to the arrests.
It’s humbling and gratifying to receive the love, support, and prayers that they have received from so many people, her mother adds. She wish to meet and hug every single person who has thought about her and done something nice for her family — even if it’s just a message they’ve sent her. She wish to see everyone who cared about her daughter.
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