Mother inspired to become an investigator as her daughter’s murder remains unsolved

Mother inspired to become an investigator as her daughter’s murder remains unsolved
At 51, Theresa Tillman is working to become an investigator, inspired by her daughter's unsolved murder. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After her daughter was killed in April 2016, Theresa Tillman, 51, decided she was going to enroll in school at Southwest Louisiana Technical Community College to become a criminal investigator.

“I’ve always had a passion for law," Tillman explains. “It got even stronger to pursue it after my daughter was taken from me"

LaShuntae Benton was a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge when she was killed. Two people were arrested in connection to the shooting, but a grand jury says there wasn’t enough clear evidence to indict the shooter.

Theresa Tillman is pursuing a career in law enforcement after her daughter's 2016 murder remains unsolved.
Theresa Tillman is pursuing a career in law enforcement after her daughter's 2016 murder remains unsolved. (Source: WAFB)

“Nobody (is) going to love your child like you love your child, so I got to get out there and do something. I got to fight for justice for my child," Tillman says.

Tillman graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Monday. The 51-year-old went back to school in hopes of one day wearing a badge to put her daughter’s murder mystery to rest. She’s learned how investigators gather evidence and come up with potential suspects.

Lake Charles native LaShuntae Benton was shot and killed on April 10, 2016.
Lake Charles native LaShuntae Benton was shot and killed on April 10, 2016. (Source: KPLC)

One day hopes she can gather the skills needed to help solve her child’s case and join a law enforcement agency.

She’s learned how investigators gather evidence and come up with potential suspects.

“I love my baby. I still love her. Beyond anybody’s imagination," Tillman says. “Losing a child is devastating. I don’t know if people understand this is a day to day thing for me. Hour to hour. Minute to minute."

Tillman used every second in school to push herself to get the skills to see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. “It was many nights that I questioned myself. Can you do this? Is this even in your reach?” Tillman would ask herself during those study sessions. There were many nights Tillman says she would be up at 2 a.m. studying and writing a paper.

Her daughter would assume her mother was doing this

“I had a strong passion for my children and them succeeding before this happened so I know that she knows in her heart. That I would do this," Tillman explains.

She wants BRPD to reopen the case and question witnesses again.

Photos of LaShuntae Benton adorn her mother's graduation cap.
Photos of LaShuntae Benton adorn her mother's graduation cap. (Source: KPLC)

“I believe in them. Actually, I had faith in them, and I still do. I believe that they’re going to do their job and if I got to sit here and do a little push for it, I will," Tillman says of the police department investigating her daughter’s case.

There were many nights where she would be up at 2 a.m. studying and writing a paper.

“It was many nights that I questioned myself. Can you do this? Is this even in your reach," Tillman would ask herself during those study sessions.

“It’s bittersweet because it gave me a chance to achieve something that I longed for. And at the same time. What pushed me to get out of that seat or do nothing. Which is losing my child," Tillman says.

That same spirit is sending Tillman to complete her bachelor's degree at McNeese State University. She plans to finish in 2021.

“It’s bittersweet because it gave me a chance to achieve something that I longed for. And at the same time. What pushed me to get out of that seat or do nothing. Which is losing my child," Tillman says.

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