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Joyce Thomas' family signs final 'I love you,' vows to advocate in her memory

Posted at 11:01 PM, Mar 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-15 00:01:28-04

While her life ended in tragedy, family and friends of Joyce Thomas are reflecting on the loving memories they made with her.

Joyce's daughter Sylvia Archie sits with her siblings at their mother's funeral services, held today at Ninth Baptist Church in Ville Platte.

"She would tell us 'Look straight. Don't worry. Be strong. I'm sorry. I love you,'" says Sylvia.

That sign, 'I love you,' is what they'll remember most about Thomas. She was deaf, but her family says she always had a lot to say.

"Although her world was silent, she didn't let the silence of the world hinder her from doing what she wanted to do," explains daughter Brecky Lavigne.

"She was a strong woman who showed us how to be strong," adds son Michael Thomas. "And if anyone knows me, I was never too scared of nothing. She built that in me."

Thomas' family says the same strength she instilled in her children is what's motivating them to seek justice. They say her death could've been prevented.

When Phillip DeWoody, the man connected to Thomas' disappearance, was arrested, his criminal history was revealed. It showed a violent past, spanning years. Despite this, he was granted parole because of Act 790.

"I feel like the criminal justice system failed us," says Lavigne. "My momma lost her life to a predator. And so many other people were victimized by that man who has no soul."

Michael says, "It's like someone took my best friend," as he takes a deep breath and pauses, holding back tears.

DeWoody's release has the family in sorrow, wanting answers.

The siblings and their family are now using their voice to speak up to prevent another tragedy from happening.

"I'm really, really advocating for them to change that law," says Brecky. "My mom's death cannot be for nothing because I know everything happens for a reason and you know what that is? That law has to change. Definitely."