Statics and facts about domestic violence tells us there is an issue, but when you put a face with facts, look into the eyes of a victim, then the true meaning of domestic violence comes to light. On October 20, 2012 around 6:30 am beautiful and talented 20 year old Shelby Dawson “Dawn” Harmon allegedly became a fatal static at the hands of her boyfriend. Rodney Sheldon Fulgham then 23 was arrested and officially charged with Vehicular Homicide in the October 20th death of his girlfriend, Shelby on US Highway 61 near the Boyle community in the Mississippi Delta. Shelby was first struck by a truck, driven by Fulgham this propelled Shelby into oncoming traffic. After hitting Shelby, he drove a measurable distance away from Shelby’s body, but technically didn’t leave the scene. Rodney sat by as Harmon’s body was run over by two other separate vehicles, by drivers who did not know Shelby was lying in the road. It is uncertain how much time passed before she was hit by the second set of vehicles. Shelby was pronounced dead at the scene. It is believed that in her last hours, Shelby told Rodney she was leaving and made every attempt to free herself from the mental and physical hold he had on her.
I talked with Shelby’s Mother, Angie Harmon to learn more about Shelby’s life, and the events leading up to her death. Angie has graciously agreed to share Shelby’s story with us and ask that you too, share her story. In doing so we keep a part of Shelby alive, but most important, the life that is saved from the warning that this too could be you, gives honor back to Shelby. Some facts and events cannot yet be discussed, as Rodney is awaiting trial.
Angie, forgive me, but I am trying to understand how this could happen, as I know you are. I have looked at the photos of Shelby, this amazingly beauty with a loving family, dozens of friends, strong smart Mississippi Delta Community College student, and wondered how they met, did she date only him afterward, did you see any warning signs, how did this all begin?
“Shelby met Rodney through mutual friends. I remember her telling me about him. She described him as a nice guy with red hair. When I asked if she was interested in him, she said he was just a new friend and nothing more. He never picked her up for a date. She would meet up with him at friend’s gatherings. She talked about being interested in other guys she met, but she never dated them. When she did start dating him, she kept it a secret from us. He never came to meet Shelby’s Dad or her family. We got bad vibes about him right off.”
I understand that at the time of her death, Shelby was living with Rodney, which is not uncommon for young people to do today. Was this her idea, or do you think she was pressured to some degree to move in with Rodney?
“Before Shelby moved in with Rodney, she had been living with her grandparents while she attended college. She was working hard with her grandfather, doing great in school, and was making her future plans for her career. She did seem more and more detached from her family and friends after she began seeing him. The idea of living with Rodney was his idea. This house was very far away from family and friends. She asked me for my advice, and I told her it wasn’t a good idea…..we didn’t even know this guy and he gave me a bad feeling. She assured me that he promised to take care of her. I even made it plain to him that Shelby was going to finish school. If he wanted her to live with him, it would be his responsibility to pay the bills, make sure to keep food on the table, and provide her with what she needed going back and forth from school. She was not going to work full time and jeopardize her education. That didn’t happen! He was not a provider!”
Were you and other family and friends allowed to visit the couple? Did they visit with your family for outings as well?
“I felt I needed to go see their new home to show Shelby that I loved her and would be there for her….even though I did not approve. I didn’t want to push her away any further, and I wanted her to feel she could come to me if she needed help. No one really felt welcomed by Rodney, and they never stepped foot in that house. I am the only one who went. Rodney NEVER attended our family outings. We made reservations at restaurants numerous times to spend time with Shelby and Rodney. He would start a fight with Shelby and try to make her feel guilty, but she still came without him. She would be physically ill and crying when she would show up. It worried me to the point of frequent stomach pains and headaches just thinking about upset she was. The day of Shelby’s birthday dinner he refused to come, yet again. It was so heartbreaking seeing my daughter so sad and stressed all of the time. When she would get ready to go home to him, she seemed very reluctant and anxious. Every time we told her, ‘Shelby, you have a family that loves you. You don’t have to depend on this guy for anything!’ Shelby never directly told us what was happening. She would say things like, ‘I’m so stressed. I don’t know what to do’ or ‘he’s driving me crazy’, I answered so many calls from her at 2 and 3 a.m, hearing her crying hysterically. We talked for hours, and she would finally calm down. It upsets me that she wouldn’t tell me exactly what was going on.”
I understand by now you were concerned and just wanted to see your daughter happy again, when was the last time you saw Shelby and what was that time like?
“The last day I saw Shelby was October 17, 2012 around 3:00 p.m. in Walmart. She was with a friend and talking about getting a second job to pay for Christmas presents for the family. She also said she wanted Christmas to be very special that year because she wanted Rodney to experience what he never had growing up. We talked about 15 minutes, and we hugged goodbye as she walked off looking for her Pops. She wanted him to buy her some pumpkins for her house. She never found him, and Pops regrets that to this day!”
I understand that shortly there after, on the morning of October 20th,you received the phone call no parent ever wants to hear and learned of Shelby’s death. How are you coping as we this year passes and you have yet to go to trial? How is that affecting your family?
“We are patiently waiting for justice. We know it will take a long time, but we are prepared to wait as long as it takes. No amount of justice will ever bring back Shelby. I am confident that she will get justice and we will finally have some sort of closure.”
This summer you did something special with Shelby’s photo and story, can you tell us a bit about taking her back to the beach and what if any reactions did you get by posting her photo, and her story in public locations as you traveled.
“A group of my family, friends, and I took a girls trip to Gulf Shores this summer. The stress can be overwhelming at times, and this group of ladies have been my support from day one. We needed to get away and pay tribute to Shelby by bringing her back to the beach. The beach was her favorite place to be. We shared Shelby’s story everywhere we went, and the reactions were all positive and supportive. The supporters on Justice For Shelby grew considerably after that trip, and there have been so many people sharing their stories with us, as well.”
Last year the jewelry designer Ronaldo created a bracelet called the “Shelby Dawn” . This is a beautiful testimony to your daughter, how has this impacted your life? Tell us a bit about the design and the story of how it came to be.
“Ronaldo created the “Shelby Dawn” in memory of Shelby because her story touched him. I actually dealt directly with Mike from Ronaldo’s team. He asked me about Shelby’s likes and personality. I told him of Shelby’s Christmas list for that year. The first on the list labeled, “most important”, was a one pearl Ronaldo bracelet. He kindly gave me that bracelet in honor of Shelby as a Christmas gift. The “Shelby Dawn” bracelet is silver with a single pearl in the center, like the one she asked for. There is a green stone and a purple stone that represents Shelby’s favorite colors, and the purple stone also represents the color in the domestic violence ribbon. Part of the proceeds will be donated to local domestic violence shelters and outreach programs. Something positive has to come out of something so evil.”
Tell us one special thing you wish to share with our readers.
“There are more than 31,000 supporters on the Justice For Shelby Face Book page. We never imagined that so many people would join together to make Shelby’s voice be heard. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support, love, and prayers for us in our time of grief! They have offered a helping hand to ensure that Shelby will never be just a statistic. We feel we have to do everything we can to “give back” and help others who may be going through similar situations as Shelby did.”
Currently the Harmon family waits for a trial date and closure. On October 30th, 2012 Fulgham confined in handcuffs and leg irons was escorted from the Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility into the Bolivar County Justice Court to appear before Honorable Judge Harold Ward Sr. Charged with the crime of homicide, Judge Ward said to Rodney, “It is my understanding that you are currently out on a previous felony bond for burglary,”. “Since that is the case, you are remanded to custody with no bail.”
And a family waits for justice.
If you would like more information about purchasing the “Shelby Dawn” Ronaldo bracelet, please visit the website.
To view the Face Book page “Justice for Shelby” follow this link.
(Photos are the copyright of “Justice for Shelby” and are used with express consent.)