Family of 23-year-old killed in murder-suicide says there were no signs of abuse, joining advocates to spread awareness

HOUSTON – The motto at the Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence (AVDA) is “End Abuse, Begin Again” and the staff there says that goes for both victims and abusers.

The family of a 23-year-old woman killed on Sunday is hoping the public hears that message loud and clear.

“Just friendly,” said Tamara Sawyer’s sister when describing her, adding that she had it all. Brains, beauty, and a keen sense of fashion. However, there is one wish she had for others they’re especially proud to brag about.

“Just keep living, definitely keep living,” her sister said.

Living is something the HCC nursing student won’t be able to do anymore.

On Sunday, Sawyer’s family said her 22-year-old on and off again boyfriend, who she just broke up with about a month ago, showed up at her house on Rain Willow Court and shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.

“Definitely a shock... but I will say this, I will say it’s very important to pay attention to mental illness because in the Black community we don’t pay attention to it, right?” Sawyer’s sister said.

Officials have not spoken about the 22-year-old man’s mental state, but Sawyer’s family said he didn’t seem abusive.

At AVDA, advocates say signs of domestic abuse aren’t always clear, but people in relationships should always pay attention to how they’re feeling.

“That needs to be elevated so that we understand and appreciate the fact that it isn’t always going to be an obvious attack,” said Maisha Colter, the CEO of AVDA.

Rather than just leave an abusive situation, advocates say you should have a safe exit plan in place that AVDA staff can help you map out.

“When it starts to feel uncomfortable, when it starts to feel like ‘I don’t like this,’ you get to choose and you get to be safe and you need to start elevating those feelings,” Colter said.

Now, Sawyer’s family is grieving her loss but celebrating her legacy and hoping her situation helps others avoid the same outcome.

“If you see that someone needs help, definitely look into that,” said Sawyer’s sister.

Not only does AVDA help victims escape abusive relationships, but they also help abusers change their behavior. The services provided by the non-profit are free of charge.

You can call aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse at 713-224-9911 or visit

Contact the Houston Area Women’s Center at 713-528-2121 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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