Wendy Forrest was driving at a fast clip from Nashville to Winona after getting word that her daughter, 31-year-old NaStacia Rice, a former Greenwood policewoman who had left to join the police force in Tchula only months before, had taken her own life.
Army veteran NaStacia Rice was found dead in her temporary home in Greenwood on Tuesday, February 15, 2022. But the reason given for her death just didn’t make any sense to those who knew her best.
LeFlore County Coroner Debra Sanders informed the statewide media and the local police authorities that Miss Rice had “suffered a single self-inflicted gunshot wound” and ruled the case a suicide.
No family member identified the body, said Forrest, NaStacia’s mother, although there were a number of relatives in the area where she had been found.
Whatever had happened, Wendy wanted to make sure that everything would be in proper order by the time she got to the Mississippi Delta.
“On my way to Mississippi from Nashville,” she said, “I only spoke to the investigators, and I asked them to send her body to the state crime lab before anybody else got to her at the house. But they didn’t do any of that. They sent her body to two funeral homes before she went to Winona.”
Funeral services were held for NaStacia Rice on March 5, 2022 in Winona. New Era Family Funeral Home in Water Valley took charge of arrangements and buried her after the funeral held at the family church.
Speaking to the assistant coroner of LeFlore County, who represented Coroner Debra Sanders, Wendy Forrest insisted that all the proper procedures should be followed and that the local authorities check out all possible suspects. She just couldn’t believe that her strong-willed, former Army veteran daughter had any reason to kill herself.
“I know my daughter. And I don’t believe she would kill herself. But even if she did commit suicide, why wasn’t the proper procedure followed? They didn’t do what they were supposed to do. And they said she had attempted suicide before.
Greenwood Police Chief Terrence Craft said he had worked with Rice at different levels during his 17 years on the Greenwood police force. He was promoted in January 2021 from captain to chief.
Rice, however, had left the Greenwood police force before he made chief, he said. But he had worked with her before.
“I worked with her, and I knew her,” he said. “She did have a few issues going on. This wasn’t the first time she had attempted suicide. I don’t feel comfortable about going into details about the deceased without the family members’ knowledge.”
Although NaStacia’s mother and her surviving daughters and her niece all question the ruling that NaStacia had taken her own life, Craft said that he had led the investigation on the previous attempt. Wendy Forrest disputes his account of a prior attempt at suicide.
“Some of my colleagues had given me the paperwork that showed that she had passed out at home. She had had a severe case of the COVID virus. And they had brought in the ambulance. But she had COVID. I have that doctor’s report that says so.”
Craft, nevertheless, says that Rice did take her own life in Greenwood. The investigation, he said, has long since been completed.
“We spoke with the family earlier this week,” he said. “That case was ruled as a suicide and the case has been closed.”
Forrest was surprised to learn that the case had been closed since the first day of the investigation.
“Police Chief Craft told my other daughter the week of January 6 that the case was closed,” Wendy Forrest said. “I’ve been calling him every month since last March. He always said, let me find out what’s going on and I’ll call you back. Now, the detectives who were over my daughter’s case are no longer over the case. They’re no longer in that department. He told my daughter last week that the case was closed. So, I called him and told him what my daughter said. He answered the phone and actually talked to me. I told him, you said my daughter’s case was closed. When was the case closed? You’ve been saying that the case was still open and that’s why I couldn’t get any of her belongings. Then he said the case was closed the day she killed herself.”
Forrest wanted to know why she couldn’t get her daughter’s belongings since the case had been closed since Feb. 15, 2022.
“While I was en route to Mississippi from Nashville I told the assistant coroner that I wanted her body to go to the crime lab. He said that it was up to the state coroner to send her body there. He said he couldn’t do it and that I’d have to pay. I said fine, I wanted her body to go to a crime lab. But when I called the coroner’s office in Greenwood, they told me they had everything they needed to rule it a suicide.”
They found NaStacia Rice’s body in the house in Greenwood where she had lived once before. But she was there only on a temporary basis while preparing to relocate to Winona. Because of a rental issue with her landlord, she had given up her Greenwood home and was preparing to move into the family’s home in Winona. She was now working with the Tchula Police Department.
“I was told that two women had found her dead and identified the body,” Forrest said. “NaStacia had sent messages to a group of her friends, saying that she was sorry. But sorry for what? We talked every day. I had a niece that passed the year before, NaStacia was sad about that. But she had been in the military and was active in the Army reserve. She would tell me about stuff she had seen. Kids with firearms, kids being killed. She had a lot of issues that she was concerned with. There were so many people she would reach out to. She would do blogs on Facebook and offer advice on life.
“Some of those same kids came to me and asked why she would do this to herself when she had talked them out of doing it? It doesn’t make sense.
“NaStacia had counseled a lot of kids who had attempted suicide,” the mother said. “She was working at Mississippi Valley State at one point and then at Jackson State; she was going to school at Mississippi Delta State.”
Rice had no children and had been a spouse in a same-sex marriage around 2019 and 2020. That marriage ended in a divorce. No one in the family suspected any problems that might have been related to Rice’s sexual identity.
Aaliyah C. was the first person to arrive at the house where Rice was staying after receiving the text message a select group of friends had received that said, simply “I’m sorry.”
Rice’s sister, Ilesha, interviewed Aaliyah about the death scene.
SISTER:How did it happen? What did you see when you went in there?
AALIYAH: I kind of like don’t want to give any details, I don’t want to get into that. It’s like a tough conversation for me right now.
SISTER: I understand, but we’re looking for so many answers. You know, it’s just the fact that that’s my sister, and my mama didn’t get a chance to see her body before they moved it. So, I’m just wondering how…how? You don’t have to describe the body. Like what’d you see when you walked through the door?
AALIYAH: When I walked in the door, everything was like… didn’t have any lights on or no air, no heat, no TV, no nothing.
SISTER: No nothing…?
AALIYAH: It wasn’t really too cold, but you really could go without a coat. When I opened up the door, all I seen was her slumped over on the couch….bloody.
SISTER: And where the gun was?
AALIYAH: In her right hand.
SISTER: So, the gun had fell when the police got there because they say the gun was between her legs on the floor.
AALIYAH: It must have been. You know I was the first person to see her… But I don’t know what happened. Tille (the police dispatcher and the second person on the scene) said she shook her…And that’s what probably shook it out of her hand. But I had left out of the house. And I called 911….
SISTER: So, she shook it out of her hand. So they touched the dead body? Before anybody got to her. And they say Tille kicked the door down. We got so many stories. And they just walked in.
AALIYAH: Nobody kicked no door down. No nothing.
SISTER: So, you got there first?
AALIYAH: And I’m gonna tell you. I got from West Side…You from Greenwood, right?
SISTER: No, I’m not from Greenwood, but I know the area.
AALIYAH: You know West Side store?
AALIYAH: Well, from West Side store, you know where there are houses. Well, that’s not too far.
AALIYAH: For me to get text messages. And for me to get from the West Side to her house.
SISTER: Do you know what time she texted you? I am not trying to ask too many questions. I’m trying to see….
AALIYAH: 11 o’clock on the dot.
SISTER: So, what time was it when you got there?
AALIYAH: I can’t really tell you. I really wasn’t looking at my phone. When I seen that message, I put my phone down.
SISTER: How long did it take you from the West Side store to get to her house?
Aaliyah: It takes like three minutes.
SISTER: Three minutes? She texted us at 11:13.
Aaliyah: Yeah, that’s what I said.
COUSIN KIM FORREST
Kim Forrest is the cousin-in-law of Wendy Forrest and lives in Winona. She works at a hospital in Greenwood.
“Me and Shay (NaStacia) were real close,” Kim Forrest said. “We talked all the time. If there had been any problems, she would have told me. But she never mentioned anything to me. In fact, she was trying to uplift me, because I was going through some things at the time.
“I was at work when they called me and told me about her. I was going to her old house. Actually I didn’t know that she had moved into the house where they found her. But I saw the police tape and the crowd at this one house, and I stopped to see what it was about. That’s when I found out that NaStacia was staying there. And when I got there, her friend had been inside and identified the body. But I never did go inside the house.
“There were a whole lot of people out there. I had no idea of any problems she had. I had talked to her that Saturday (Feb. 15 was on a Tuesday) and she had been late for work. The chief of police in Tchula, where she was now working, is my best friend. So I had texted her to tell her that NaStacia was going to be late for work. But she was okay.
“I don’t know of anyone who might have had a grudge against her. She got along with everybody. Her friends that she would hang around with, I didn’t know them. I’m married into to the family, but we became close friends before I married her mother’s cousin. She had just started working in Tchula maybe a month before.
“I worked at the hospital, and she worked as a police officer in Greenwood at first. And everybody loved her. I just can’t believe that she was so troubled that she would commit suicide. I don’t believe that. Now, I don’t presume to know everything that was going on in her life. But knowing her personally, I just don’t believe she would do that.
“That weekend, we talked about some serious stuff. And I told her I was seeing a therapist. If she had been having suicidal tendencies, I’m sure she would’ve asked can she see the therapist? But there was none of that. None of that.
“Was there a money problem? I did hear about something after the fact. At the time I think she was in Atlanta; I think she owed somebody some money because of a rental agreement.”
On learning that the coroner had taken her body to a funeral home in Winona, Kim Forrest said she thought the police would have taken her to the crime lab.
Wendy Forrest has obtained her daughter’s records from her doctor. Everything was fine with NaStacia, she said. They were normal findings, and nothing was wrong.