Less than a month after Danville native Danielle Thomas’ brutal murder in New York City, hundreds of people are honoring her memory through purchasing “Justice for Danielle” bracelets.
All proceeds from the bracelets are going to a scholarship fund in Thomas’ honor. The scholarship will be awarded to a Boyle County High School Class of 2013 graduate who is interested in music education. If enough money is raised, a scholarship will be awarded annually.
Sarah Wilkerson, 27, who now lives in Nashville, first met Thomas in pre-school and last spoke to her less than two weeks before her estranged boyfriend, Jason Bohn, allegedly beat and strangled her to death in their New York City apartment on June 24. Wilkerson said she had no idea Thomas was a victim of ongoing domestic violence.
“She seemed so happy and said she was just loving her life working for Weight Watchers in New York City,” Wilkerson said.
But a few weeks before she died, Thomas, 27, swore out a criminal complaint against Bohn, 33, for allegedly beating her so badly she needed crutches, according to the New York City Police Department.
When Wilkerson read the news of Thomas’ murder on Facebook, she fell into a state of “pure shock.”
“I don’t think I moved from my couch for over an hour,” Wilkerson said. “I kept checking Facebook, thinking maybe it was someone’s idea of a sick joke. But then her family confirmed what happened.”
Wilkerson said the “Justice for Danielle” bracelets also serve to remind the public that any woman could be a silent victim of domestic violence. The purple on the bracelets corresponds with purple ribbons that some wear to remember loved ones killed at the hands of their romantic partners.
Between about 600 bracelet sales and donations, Wilkerson and others close to Thomas have helped raise $2,600 for the scholarship fund. While the first order of bracelets quickly sold out, Wilkerson said more bracelets should be available later this month in Danville. A Facebook page, also titled Justice for Danielle, has garnered nearly 2,000 followers as of Friday.
“We’re completely surprised at the overwhelming response from people,” Wilkerson said. “We knew Danielle was well-loved, but the response and support from people all over the country is completely unreal.”
Boyle County Schools Superintendent Mike Lafavers, who served as a pallbearer at Thomas’ funeral in Danville, said he remembered her well even years after she graduated.
“Danielle was a fantastic person,” Lafavers said. “She lived each day fully and she was a loving and caring person. Anyone who knew her would say that she gave all she had to those she loved.”
Wilkerson said as a Christian she believes God will forgive Bohn if he asks for forgiveness. In the meantime, she and other people who loved Thomas are struggling to figure out why he allegedly did such a thing to a woman who loved him and others so deeply.
Bohn, a lawyer, is being held without bond and awaiting trial on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including first-degree murder. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Recently, members of Thomas’ family declined an interview request from a reporter. Wilkerson said everyone close to Thomas really misses her and hopes other women in similar circumstances hear the tragic story and find help to get away from their abusive partners.
“Danielle was one of those people who really knew how to make the most out of life,” Wilkerson said. “Our hope is we can turn this horrible tragedy into something that helps others.”