Remembering Jamie Kimble: Family, friends deliver strong message: Stop domestic violence

September 2014

Bradenton Herald
September 27, 2014 12:00 AM

HOLMES BEACH -- In front of Jan Kimble was a small stack of photos of her only child.

In one taken on Father's Day a few years ago in Anna Maria Island, a smiling Jamie Kimble laid on a towel at the beach. She stood beside a rented bicycle in another photo, the ocean in clear view behind her tall, slender frame
"We took a ride all over the island and just stopped in shops and had lunch," Kimble said of that day. "We just have so many great memories of enjoying each other's company."

Anna Maria Island was where Jamie last lived before her death.

On Sept. 3, 2012, Kimble, 31, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in Tampa. Luis Roberson Rodriguez, who police said had picked her up that night from Tampa International Airport, killed her, then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. He had driven from Kansas City to Orlando to pick up a gun, before ending up in Tampa.

Just three months earlier, the couple had broken up a relationship described by Kimble as on-and-off for seven years.

On Friday, the 58-year-old Jan Kimble sat at a table in a Holmes Beach villa. Jamie was compassionate and electric, Kimble said.

The human resources manager from Charlotte, NC, flew to the island this week with a small group of family and Jamie's friends. The group spent part of Friday handing out flyers to island businesses with Jamie's story on it in hopes of raising awareness of domestic violence. At the bottom of each flyer was the logo for the Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage, which the Kimbles co-founded. This week, the cities of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria read proclamations declaring Sept. 27 as "Jamie Kimble Day."

Kimble said she couldn't think of a better place to gather in honor of her daughter, who loved Anna Maria Island.

"I think this is where she found that ... she found that courage to get away," Kimble whispered, her eyes tearing up.

According to Kimble, her daughter's relationship was not physically abusive until the day she was shot and killed. However, it was dotted with signs of abuse and breakups throughout the years.

In 2012, Jamie said the latest breakup was for good. She worked for Coca Cola Consolidated with BYB Brands and, after getting a promotion, had plans to move to Dallas by the end of September.

"She said it with conviction that it's over, she was moving on," Kimble said of that time.

The night she died, Jamie had just returned from London. Her mother said she had spent the weekend visiting someone new.

Throughout Jamie's relationship with Rodriguez, Kimble said she and her husband, Ron, who is Charlotte's deputy city manager, knew what he was doing but felt their daughter should be the one to realize that the relationship was not a good one.

"They're master manipulators and if they do something and they would break up, it would be, 'Oh that'll never happen again. I'm sorry, I love you, I want you back,'" she said. "And she would always go back with him."

Sharon Roland knew Jamie from their time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They were sorority sisters. The 34-year-old, who joined the small group this weekend, said she had an instant connection with Jamie. Their friendship grew stronger as they got older.

"It's been very emotional because Anna Maria Island was always so special to Jamie," she said. "I, of course, am thinking of her and missing her and at the same time, I want to raise awareness of domestic violence and let people who are in the relationship know that its OK to get out."

Seated on a couch in a nearby villa Friday, Amy Zavorka, 41, described the relationship she had with her cousin. On her black dress was a purple ribbon, a symbol in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is in October. She and Jamie, although both only children, were like sisters. Jamie even called dibs on being godmother to Zavorka's youngest son, Jack.

"She was also my best friend," Zavorka said, her eyes welling up. "Even though she was eight years younger than me, the relationship progressed ... but I was lucky enough that she was my family."

Their closeness is what made the seven years of Jamie's relationship so difficult for Zavorka.

"We'd talk about it, I would try to convince her to get out, she knew she needed to, she just didn't know how," she said.

This weekend has been bittersweet for Zavorka. The last time she was on the island, she was with Jamie. Six months before Jamie was killed, Zavorka gave her cousin a necklace with a spiral on it. The symbol meant courage. In a card, Zavorka told Jamie that courage sometimes means listening and not always having to be right. Her cousin was strong, beautiful, she said.

"Domestic violence can happen to anyone. What's in the minds of people ... they think of weak people that are willing to be strung along," she said. "She wasn't that person."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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