By Utamu Bellea
For Lindener Simone Benjamin and the rest of her family, this year’s Mother’s Day comes at a time when they are mourning the sudden and unexpected loss of her second daughter, Shonette Dover.
The family’s world was torn apart when Dover’s partially decomposed body was discovered in a shallow grave in the backyard of the Canvas City, Linden home she shared with her boyfriend, Shaquawn Alleyne, on April 30.
Prior to that, Dover had been reported missing for almost a month. Even more heartbreaking, Benjamin’s teenage daughter who had reportedly been at the home when her sister was murdered and buried has since been charged with accessory after the fact of murder and is presently at the juvenile holding centre.
For Benjamin and the rest of her family, it is a double loss, added to the fact that her daughter’s suspected killer is yet to be apprehended.
Speaking with the Sunday Times recently, Dover’s grieving mother and other family members shared fond memories of her as they reminisced about her life growing up. The family has since erected a tent with memorabilia photos in the Blueberry Hill, Linden yard where she grew up for the latter part of her life, with her mother, grandmother and other siblings. Her family related that Dover loved taking photographs as was seen by the beautiful pictures strategically placed and decorated with colourful balloons.
“She used to like model and take out pictures. She wanted to be a movie star, she used to tell me. She like a picture, every time you would see her taking out a picture,” her mother recalled.
Dover also loved to plait hair, and her family recalled her being the go-to person when they needed their hair styled. According to her mother, she was no pushover and would always stick up for herself.
Growing up, she attended the Mount Caramel Nursery School, then the St Aidan’s Primary School, prior to culminating her secondary education at the Christianburg Wismar Secondary School (CWSS) which are all located in the Linden community. Dover has been described by many as a brilliant student. It was in secondary school that she met Alleyne and the two became friends.
According to her mother, she loved to have fun and was quite fond of children, especially her siblings and her nieces and nephews. Benjamin said she became even more reminiscent as Mother’s Day approached.
“Mother’s Day coming around I’m going to be really sad,” she related, as she reminisced on how excited her daughter used to be on occasions such as these.
“She really was a nice and jovial person… If she and somebody get wrong, she wouldn’t even hold grudges… This morning we were saying how we miss her. If God could’ve just resurrect her, you know,” Benjamin confided.
For one, she said Dover loved to prepare food.
“She used to like to prepare things, she liked to cook. Especially when it comes to her grandmother, she learned how to do every little thing – prepare nice pastries. When she make a eggball, oh gosh! It was a real eggball,” Benjamin related with the pleasant memories imprinted deep in her eyes.
She also recalled her daughter’s friends posting her food on social media on one occasion and receiving favourable responses from persons who willingly placed their orders.
“My brother who live outside, he said he had great plans for her because she had potential. I know I will miss her for all those things. She never used to like to see me sad. She used to say, ‘mommy you don’t worry, I would make you feel proud. I never knew that she would’ve been gone so early,” a saddened Benjamin said.
She further confided that while her daughter didn’t get into much detail, she had planned on returning home that Tuesday after she went “missing”.
“The last time she tell me, ‘mommy I’m coming home. I ain’t able with this’. We was waiting for the Tuesday for she to come home, but, nothing,” Benjamin said as she described Dover’s boyfriend as being very jealous and insecure in his actions towards her daughter.
“She had a lot of dreams. Especially when it comes to her nieces, she wanted to do a lot of things for them. She always said she wanted to help her mother, and grandmother too,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin said she is even more saddened over the position her teen daughter is presently in.
“I would die for my children… When it comes to loving them, I’m always there… I feel sad but I ask God to give me the strength,” she said.
Asked about the type of person she knew her daughter’s boyfriend to be like, she said it was nothing compared to what the family has recently uncovered.
“They say when you see somebody they does look nice, but you don’t know what is their heart. So that is what fail we, because we never know that he was somebody like that…We didn’t know all them things,” she related.
Benjamin said she takes comfort, however, in knowing that they were able to retrieve her daughter’s body.
“I just want to remember her just the way she used to be. I don’t want to remember her dead…I know I’m going to feel sad on Mother’s Day,” she reiterated.
Benjamin urged Alleyne to surrender to Police so that her daughter can get justice. She also encouraged mothers to pay more attention to their daughters and the men they are involved in relationships with.
“This is a warning to every mother. If your child got somebody, let them come and ensure you counsel the person. Get to know the person for yourself… You can even take them to a pastor for a lot of counselling. As they say, ‘come see me and come live with me, it’s two different things’,” she noted.
The grieving mother said she is also taking comfort in the fact that her teen daughter is still alive and was able to reveal what happened on the fateful day.
“It’s hard but we just have to leave it in the hands of God,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dover’s cousin related that the family is unappreciative of the negative way in which her teen cousin is being portrayed by some sections of society. She said no one truly knows the situation, but she is happy that the teen reacted the way she did and is alive today.
“The only reason she was there (with her sister and boyfriend) was because she had to get help from her sister with her SBAs. She’s not the type of person people are saying, she’s very quiet and she is very smart,” the cousin said.
She said the teen has been through a lot already as it relates to the case.
“And as much as people are saying that she took a long time to talk, the family was looking outside… because we were misled. So, that is why most of us did not even find out from her. While we were busy outside looking, she was crying and trying to deal with the situation but she’s not an outspoken person. I don’t want the public to be spreading stupid rumours about her because she’s not that sort of individual,” the cousin said.
Additionally, Dover’s brother, Travis Stanley, said she had a very promising future as he described her as very loving and humble.
“I was away from them for 10 years, so I never really played that big brother role in their life… but since Shonette was small I saw a promise in her like she would’ve made the family better,” he said.
He also described his teen sister as the “brightest in the family” but noted that she was fearful and traumatised as a result of the entire ordeal.
“It was very promising with both she and Shonette. Well, Shonette got big so I was looking to her now. I pray that people will be able to put themselves in her shoes… at the end of the day, she’s a child…It ain’t easy, so people can say what they want to say but that girl has been traumatised with a fear when she see what her sister went through. I’m just pleading with the public to get a heart… to put their foot in her shoes and see what she went through,” he said as he related that he is praying for the family and for justice.
“We ain’t taking no revenge. We come from a peaceful family. We’re full of love and Shonette was very loving. We leaving everything to God. I’m going to miss my sister. She’s going to be greatly missed,” Dover’s brother said. (This article was first published in the Guyana Times)