"Even though she grew up in a silent world, she never let the silence hinder her." These are words Joyce Thomas' children used to describe their mother, who they say was loved and respected by so many members of her community.
Joyce Thomas of Ville Platte went missing on February 26. Law enforcement agencies, including the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office and Louisiana State Police, searched for Joyce for days after she went missing. The search ultimately came to a tragic end on February 29, when Thomas' body was found in an area along the I-49 frontage road between Sunset and Opelousas. Her family is now remembering their "loving mother."
In a Facebook post on KATC's wall Wednesday night, Thomas' daughter shared a GoFundMe that has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.
The fundraiser description gives a glimpse into the life of Joyce Thomas - she attended The School for the Deaf in Baton Rouge where she learned to speak using American Sign Language. Family members say that she used gestures and pencil and paper to communicate with those around her. She didn't let the silence of her world hinder her from raising a family, participating in community activities, and doing life on her own terms, her family says.
They describe Joyce Thomas as "strong, brave, and independent." Now, as they remember their mother, family members are also using their voices to question why her alleged kidnapper was granted parole last summer.
Her family says, "This senseless act of violence has left us devastated, numb, and wanting answers."
53-year-old Phillip Dewoody was arrested and is being charged with the kidnapping of Thomas, along with the kidnapping of an Opelousas woman just days before. Dewoody was granted parole last summer after a hearing before a three-member parole board in June.
Money raised by Thomas' family will go towards funeral expenses and the family's efforts to "seek answers, justice, change, and corrective actions by Louisiana Parole System."
"There is no money in the world that can help ease the pain that our family is going through," reads the fundraiser description. "But it can help to prevent another family from going through such a senseless act of violence at the hands of such criminals who have been paroled."