"She was nice to everyone, whether she knew you or not," says Tinsley's friend Sharronda Washington, far right, with Faye Tinsley's daughter, Telambria Tinsley, center, and mother, Barbara Paige.
Several years before her death, Tinsley, top right, poses with her mother, Barbara Paige, top left, her daugher, Telambria Tinsley, and granddaughter Maniyah Washington.
Courtesy Tinsley famly
Two days after the lifeless body of Pherbia Antoinette "Faye" Tinsley was discovered slumped over the steering wheel of a vehicle on Prospect Avenue, police have described a suspect and say they're making progress in the investigation into the July 14 shooting.
Friends and family, however, are still struggling to come to terms with the death of a woman they recall as a "friend to everyone."
"She had no enemies" says Tinsley's mother, Barbara Paige, who recalls her 51-year-old daughter as someone who'd "give you the shirt off her back."
According to Charlottesville Police Lt. Ronnie Roberts, officers were called to the 800 block of Prospect at 6:53am on Saturday morning where they discovered Tinsley's body inside her green Honda sport utility vehicle, the victim of an apparent gunshot wound.
Roberts declined to reveal further details including the type of weapon or a possible motive, but her family suspects Tinsley may have been made vulnerable by her own kindness.
"She was too nice," says Sharronda Washington, whose son has a daughter with Tinsley's daughter, Telambria Tinsley.
Telambria agrees, recalling her mother feeding all of her friends during high school and even giving away furniture when a neighbor was in need.
"I think someone called and asked her for a ride," says Telambria, noting that her mother's fiancé, Sebastian Chavez, described going to bed with Tinsley at just after 1am on Saturday in their Barracks Road apartment, then discovering her gone later that morning.
While described by her mother and daughter as "happy-go-lucky," Tinsley faced a life of significant adversity. Immediately after graduating from Charlottesville High School in 1979, the young woman who enjoyed playing basketball and who had competed in a mid-70s Miss Black Albemarle pageant, followed her older brother into the military by enlisting in the U.S. Army. Her service, however, was cut short after two and a half years by a devastating motor vehicle accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury.
After months of hospitalization and therapy, Tinsley got a disability discharge from the Army and returned home to Charlottesville, her mother says. She beat doctors' prognoses by living independently and went on to have two children– daughter Telambria, now 22, and a son, Romequez Chavez, now 19, who is enlisted in the Army Reserve.
Telambria recalls that while she and her brother lived with their grandmother for part of their childhood due to their mother's continued medical issues, their mother remained an active part of their lives.
"She took us to see colleges," Telambria recalls, "took me to get my prom dress."
Devotion to her children continued after Telambria gave birth to daughter Maniyah four years ago.
"She watched her while I was in school," says Telambria, who is training to be a massage therapist and an aesthetician and who has completed an online business degree. This weekend, Telambria says, her mother had promised Maniyah a shopping trip for cookie-making supplies and an afternoon of baking. The pre-schooler, Telambria says, is struggling to understand why her grandmother can't be there.
"She just keeps asking what happened to her, and could it happen to us?" Telambria says, fighting tears.
The night before her death, Telambria says, Tinsley went to the VFW Lodge on River Road for her favorite activity, playing bingo. Telambria says she gave her mother $40 to play. Tinsley won $600.
"She was excited," recalls Tinsley's mother. Less than 12 hours later, however, Tinsley was dead.
Could the cash have been motive for murder? Telambria doesn't believe so, since her mother had already deposited most of the money into her bank account. Tinsley, she says, was familiar with Prospect Avenue, having once lived on the 700 block, so she may have known residents there.
Police have described the unknown suspect as "a light complexioned black male, stocky and muscular build, between 5'8" and 5'11", with a thin mustache and a small patch of beard on his chin, with tattoos on both arms of cursive type lettering, and tattoos on both hands, one with possibly the letter 'M' and another with the letter 'C.'"
Tinsley's family say they're confident the killer will be caught, and they hope anyone with any information will call police.
"This is serious business," says Washington. "That could have been anyone parked there."
Tips should be called in to Crimestoppers at 434-977-4000.
A funeral service is planned for Saturday, July 21 at 11am at First Baptist Church on West Main Street.