‘Not just a girlfriend’: Victim’s daughter shares her mother’s legacy

A mother, a sister, an aunt, and a best friend: that’s how a 21-year-old woman wants her mother to be remembered.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 3:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2023 at 10:37 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - A mother, a sister, an aunt, and a best friend: that’s how a 21-year-old woman wants her mother to be remembered.

Z’Nigere Wilson-Armstead said her mother, Zataé Paulette Wilson of Georgetown, was shot and killed earlier this month in Summerville. Wilson’s boyfriend, Michael Chinnis, was arrested on Sept. 5 on charges including murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, jail records show.

“She has a family, and she has people who love her, she’s not just a girlfriend and she’s not just his girlfriend, she was a mom,” Wilson-Armstead said.

Summerville Police said Chinnis called 911 before leaving the scene saying his girlfriend had been shot.

Just hours before that call, Wilson-Armstead was sending her mother off for the night, hugging her goodbye.

“I told her I loved her, and told her to be safe,” Wilson-Armstead said, “How can she be here one minute, and gone the next?”

She said she misses her mother’s contagious laugh, caring spirit, and hardworking character. Wilson worked hard to buy her family a house just last year.

“My mom worked very hard for that house, that was one of her biggest accomplishments, and she didn’t get to enjoy it,” she said.

Above all else, Wilson-Armstead said she misses their daily phone calls.

“Waking up knowing I will never get to see her again or talk to her again or get a call from her again is really hard,” Wilson-Armstead said.

There is a long, entrenched pattern of domestic violence in South Carolina, Sara Barber, the executive director of the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said. South Carolina ranks eleventh in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men, the first time in 23 years the state has not ranked in the top 10, Violence Policy Data shows.

“I think people underestimate the scale of this problem,” Barber said, “It’s not something that happens to people who live in a different part of town than you, or look different than you, it happens to someone that you know.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows shows over 42% of women in South Carolina experience some form of domestic abuse.

Barber said she urges lawmakers to put policies in place that reduce the access abusers have to firearms, and invest in evidence-based prevention programs. However, she said there are steps the community can take to prevent domestic violence, too.

“If somebody comes to you and reports that they’re a victim experiencing this, your reaction is critical,” Barber said, “If you shut them down, if you say it’s not that bad, or you don’t believe them, they probably won’t report it ever again.”

As for Wilson-Armstead, she said she is continuing to work toward a degree in nursing while supporting her siblings the best she can.

“It’s been a lot, having to continue with life, because I have to, I have to be strong,” Wilson-Armstead said.