LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) Cheryl Williamson had the Western Kentucky University crowd on their feet when she presented a personal and powerful monologue about being a plus-sized woman.
'This is for the thick chicks!" Williamson professed, "The girls who embrace their bellies and accept them like just love."
"It was one of the best pageants that WKU has had thus far," Williamson's best friend Terrance Williams remembered, "Her spunk, her confidence and her attitude. I mean she was serious about it."
Williams said it was more than just a presentation. It was life.
"She would walk to class like she was in the pageant, she would leave class like she was in the pageant, she would dress like she was in the pageant. She lived the pageant."
Williams met Williamson at Western. He was new to the campus, and she took him under her wing.
"From then, we just clicked and we were just inseparable."
It was 2007. Terrance was a first-generation college freshman. Cheryl, a sophomore.
"We basically were each other's support system," he said, adding, the support left an impact on Cheryl's entire circle of friends that would last a lifetime.
"Cheryl was one of the many reasons why I, myself, and a few other people graduated."
Despite the help she gave others toward their goal of graduation, that achievement would never come for Cheryl.
On November 25, 2012, Cheryl arranged a trip to Louisville from Bowling Green for the Thanksgiving Holiday. But the day of celebration would turn to tragedy.
Cheryl gathered her friends to go out with her to a party at the Gillespie in downtown Louisville. Hundreds of people were there enjoying themselves but a fight broke out. As people were leaving, there were gunshots fired. Cheryl was hit in the chest and rushed to the University of Louisville Hospital.
"I would have never thought that would be our last time together," Williams said.
Cheryl would not pull through.
Her friends were stunned. Words were tough to come by for friends like Williams who were there amid the chaos.
Louisville Metro Police Sergeant Anthony Wilder was a detective in the homicide unit at the time and was the lead investigator on the Williamson case.
"To this day, out of hundreds of potential witnesses that were leaving that club and have seen or heard or talked about it, no one has come forward."
Days later, Williamson's mother, Donnetta, spoke to WHAS 11 News to remember her daughter's passion, dedication and love for Western.
"That was her world," Donnetta Williamson told the station in 2012, "It was something she wanted to do and she worked hard at it and then her life ended."
Cheryl's mother said that Sunday morning, she was waiting for Cheryl to come home when, at about 4 am, there was a knock at the door. Cheryl was not on the other side. Instead, it was LMPD detectives.
'That's one of the hardest things you have to do as a homicide detective; speak with a family under those circumstances," Sgt. Wilder said of the job, "Sometimes the first contact that we have with the victim's family is not only trying to figure out information from them, but we are there...to tell them about their loved one's death all in one conversation. That's very hard to deal with."
Cheryl's mother's heart was broken.
Sadly, tragedy would strike the family again. Four years after her daughter's death, Donnetta Williamson also passed away. She died just before Christmas 2016 not knowing who killed her daughter or why.
They are the same questions which still linger for detectives.
"What I personally think about, is the person that did this, what else have they done since then," Wilder wondered.
Terrance chooses to focus on his friend, and what she would want him to do without her.
"All of those good memories still lie in my mind, I just still miss her and would rather have her here to build even more memories," Williams said.
In his process of moving forward, Terrance found himself at the Tim Faulkner Art Gallery for a series of musical acts on March 19th, 2017. Again, there was a fight followed by gunfire.
Again, a college student was hit and died.
University of Louisville student Savannah Walker was killed. She was one of the several people shot that night, and Terrance was there, instantly reminded of what happened to his friend nearly 5 years earlier.
"It really just gave me a flashback, and I've never seen [Savannah] before, but I mean it just still hit home with me and I know her family wants answers," Williams said.
In the middle of the scramble to safety, Williams' instincts kicked in. He wonders if he had help from an angel.
"There was also another girl who was there and got shot there and I helped her just because of my friend and what happened to her." Williams helped get that young lady to a hospital. She survived her injuries.
For investigators, whether it is the Williamson case or the Walker case, they need help and time is not an issue.
"We're not concerned with why it's taken you five years to come forward with this information, we just want the information," Wilder added.
The pain, though, is still fresh for Terrance and some of his fellow classmates, including WHAS 11 News anchor and reporter Tabnie Dozier who is a Western alumnus.
Cheryl and Terrance shared a love for fashion design. He continues the work today, drawing inspiration from Cheryl. One moment of motivation came in the form a message he received after her death.
"I found a book when we were cleaning out her room and she was writing about me," Williams said, fighting tears, "She said, 'As much as I've learned from her, I've unknowingly showed her and taught her so much.'"
Although his best friend's murder remains unsolved, he knows his greatest responsibility is to make her proud. He plans to do that through celebrating Cheryl through the lives of his two young daughters.
Just know that my daughters know who she is."
Contact LMPD with Tips and Information
In the Williamson case, the Walker case and any open homicide investigation which are cold case or current, Louisville Metro Police detectives encourage anyone to come forward with the information. Lt. Emily McKinley who leads the homicide unit and the head of the Cold Case Unit joined this project with WHAS 11 News to highlight cold cases with the hopes of sparking memories and developing new leads in their cases.
You can leave a tip anonymously by calling (502) 574-LMPD (5673).
Contact the WHAS 11 News i-Team
If there is a case you think the 11 News i-Team should profile in our Inside Investigations series looking at cold case investigations, send an email to email@example.com.
Executive Producer Lena Duncan and Anchor/Reporter Tabnie Dozier contributed to this report. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. i-Team Investigator Derrick Rose can be reached at 502-582-7232 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Twitter: @LenaUnscripted @tvtabnie @WHAS11DRose