St. Paul family mourns after losing daughter in Mississippi car crash

Lashawnda Newell grew up in St. Paul, but she moved to Mississippi a few years ago.

Now, her family is still in shock after she was killed in a deadly crash halfway across the country.

When it comes to describing the hole in her heart, for Phyllis Gilliam, it’s hard to find the words.

“For something like this to happen, it’s so heartbreaking, because no one expects for their children to leave here before them,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam’s daughter was driving a car from a Waffle House in Biloxi, Mississippi in the early morning hours of May 11 when her vehicle was t-boned on the driver’s side by an SUV that had run a red light.

Her sister, who was in the car with her, says they were both wearing their seat belts and she had to watch as Newell took her last breath.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to sleep again behind this, seeing my little sister dead next to me,” she said.

Family members say Newell moved to Mississippi five years ago with her childhood sweetheart in search of a better life for her and her two young daughters.

They say she always had a smile on her face and a song in her heart, and loved to write and produce music under the name Nola Skii.

“She just sung like no other,” said Gilliam. “A lot of people wanted to sign her. A lot of people thought her music was wonderful.”

Now, Gilliam says the young woman with a voice of an angel is in heaven with the wings of one, too.

“I’m going to miss her voice. I’m going to miss the love. She always tells me she loves me,” said Gilliam. “She’s just a beautiful soul who was taken too soon.”

The Harrison County Coroner says the driver who hit Newell appeared to be distracted, but any potential charges will be determined when the accident investigation is complete.

In the meantime, a memorial service for Newell is scheduled for Saturday. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help her family cover funeral and burial expenses.

A celebration of life service for Newell will take place at the New Hope Baptist Church Saturday, May 25. The wake is from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the funeral will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.