Six years ago Sunday, Tiphne Hollis, then 16, was out for an innocent afternoon with friends. A sophomore at a nearby high school in Jacksonville, Florida, Tiphne was quiet, but friendly to everyone.
Many knew Tiphne for her love of fashion and high heels, and her caring nature with children at a local day care where she worked.
On the afternoon of March 20, 2010, Tiphne rode along with friends in a neighborhood she rarely frequented. The driver, a family friend of Tiphne’s, reportedly got lost along the way.
Later that evening, Jacksonville police responded to a reported homicide. It was Tiphne. She had been shot through the window of the car. The rest of the passengers, two of whom were Tiphne’s cousins, were uninjured.
“I remember everything. Sometimes it seems like yesterday,” Shanda Whitaker Ward, Tiphne’s mom, told Dateline. “I just remember getting the phone call, and going to the neighborhood where it happened. She was only 16.”
That night, Tiphne was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. To this day, Shanda says Tiphne’s death remains a mystery. Her nieces believe the shot might have been an accident.
Accident or not, though, Shanda says nothing can bring back her beloved daughter. “It was random,” Shanda told Dateline. “It was nobody that Tiphne knew.”
Despite the pain of losing her daughter, Shanda has spent the past six years spearheading a campaign to raise awareness about Tiphne’s death.
“Every 20th of each month, I do a walk in that community where Tiphne was killed,” said Shanda. “We do the walk in that neighborhood, just to let them know that we are not going to stop fighting for justice for Tiphne.”
According to Christian Hancock, Public Information Officer with the Jacksonville Police Department, Tiphne’s case, “continues to be an open and active investigation.”
Shanda has also worked directly with a detective who she says has, “never given up on Tiphne’s case.”
But the real fight has come from Shanda. And as the sixth anniversary of Tiphne’s death approached, she worked with an organization to do a walk in the neighborhood where Tiphne was killed. She also organized a fashion show in Tiphne’s honor.
“As a mother, you are the voice for your child. I just want the world to know about how I never gave up on my daughter’s life, and how I continue to fight after her life,” said Shanda. “Tiphne had so much greatness around her and I am trying to keep that greatness alive.”
As she spoke, Shanda showed strength and courage in the face of what some parents might find an impossible situation. Her efforts to keep Tiphne’s spirit alive have become her life mission.
At the time of Tiphne’s death, Shanda owned and operated the daycare where Tiphne worked. Today, Shanda has transformed it into a K-12 academy in Tiphne’s name.
“I have a private school in her honor, and it’s called it’s called TDH Academy," that stands for Tiphne Darshay Hollis. “We have about 40 students who attend and we also have a daycare that has 45 children under 4 years old.”
To help raise awareness, Shanda even directed a music video in Tiphne’s name. The song is called “I’m Okay,” and Shanda says she was inspired to create it after she found a letter from Tiphne explaining how she hoped to be like her Mom someday.
“One of my prayers is that somebody would see my hurt and my pain and see my fight for Tiphne. And I just pray that somebody comes forward one day,” Shanda told Dateline. “They can never feel my pain, but they can see the inspiration of my fight for my daughter.”
If you have any information regarding Tiphne's case, you are asked to call the Jacksonville Police Department at (904) 630-7600.