Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Lady Named "Sunshine"


“...bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days...” Psalms 55: 23.

The Dianne Freeman-Green Murder
by Robert A. Waters

She lived in a cramped apartment and walked to the Hardee’s Restaurant where she worked. When she was gunned down in a robbery in 2007, she was just another anonymous victim. A nobody. But as the Newport News, Virginia community learned about her, Dianne Freeman-Green, 47, became larger than life. Her alleged killers were recently arrested and are scheduled go to trial later this year.

According to Federal documents, three men planned and executed the robbery. Anthony Wainwright, 25, Henry L. Stapleton, 23, and Michael Johnson, Jr., 22, have been charged with first-degree murder and may face the death penalty.

At about five-thirty on the morning of September 28, 2007, Wainwright and Stapleton, wearing black clothes and black do-rags as masks, entered the Hardee’s on Denbigh Boulevard. Inside were three employees and no customers. Wainwright pointed a gun at Freeman-Green, a clerk, and demanded money. She readily complied, handing him $ 150 from the till.

But as the robbery unfolded, Wainwright’s mask fell off.

It was dumb chance that Freeman-Green recognized Wainwright. She attended the same church attended as the robber’s family and had met him there.

Wainwright decided that since Freeman-Green could identify him, she had to die. He forced her to kneel down with her back to him, and placed the barrel of the 9mm handgun to her head. But before he could pull the trigger, Freeman-Green said, “God will forgive you.”

Then the shot rang out, and the victim dropped to the floor.

The two robbers, according to their alleged confessions, ran to a waiting getaway car driven by Johnson and drove back to the motel where they were staying. There they split the money and smoked pot, confident that they wouldn’t be caught.

Fifty dollars apiece for a life.

Cops were mystified by the actions of the robbers. Why would they kill one clerk and not the others? It took nearly two years, but police and Federal agents eventually tracked them down.

Dianne Freeman-Green was a remarkable woman. She lived alone and walked more than a mile to work every morning. She was unmarried and had no children.

Because of her friendly personality, Freeman-Green was known as “Sunshine.” She’d worked at the same Hardee’s for 16 years. It was said that if a customer couldn’t afford to pay, the friendly clerk would sometimes pick up the tab.

A neighbor said she was “just a sweetie, always laughing and joking.” She was “conscientious, loving, and wonderful.”

Freeman-Green’s passion was her Christian faith. She attended the Holy Tabernacle Church of Deliverance where she sang in the choir. She tithed a percentage of what little money she made, and worked with several Christian ministries. At work, Freeman-Green read her Bible on her breaks. She had turned down several requests to become manager of the restaurant because it would interfere with her attendance at church.

Anthony Wainwright’s family also attended the church.

According to Kermit Jones, pastor of the church, Freeman-Green “always had something bright, something uplifting to say. If she was having a bad day, you really wouldn’t know it because she was always putting herself above others.”

After learning about the positive life led by the slain clerk, citizens in Newport News took action. An article by Tamara Dietrich in the Newport News Daily Press described what was done to try to help move the investigation forward. “Two giant billboards went up along local interstates,” the article read. “[Companies] donated space, pleading for information to catch her killer. The city ran a special segment on her slaying on city cable television, and posted it on YouTube and GodTube Web sites. A $ 30,000 reward was raised.”

An anonymous life. A senseless murder. A woman who, in death, became larger than life.