Arrione Pinkney gave her life trying to protect her mother. Her mother still bears the wounds from the attack.
“I was stabbed 19 times,” said Susan Pinkney, her mother. “I was stabbed so many times they didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Susan’s husband, Antonio Townsley, is in the Dallas County jail awaiting trial.
How Arrione, a college-bound teenager, ended up a victim of domestic violence shows just how quickly turbulent situations can turn deadly.
Arrione graduated with honors from a Memphis-area high school in 2016. She earned a scholarship to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She wanted to study journalism. She was interested in the human brain.
“My baby, she wanted to be something in life,” her mother said.
But Susan and Antonio had anything but a happy marriage.
“She seriously hated that man,” said Aailyah Johnson, Arrione’s best friend. “She wanted to be away from that. She wanted her mother away from that.”
Susan says Antonio shoved her around and once pulled a gun on her. Arrione was worried. She told her best friend she feared for her mother’s safety.
Arrione was right to be worried.
In 2004, he was convicted of aggravated robbery. In 2010, his former girlfriend accused him of trying to stab her with a pocket knife, saying, “You’re going to make me kill you.”
The charge was dismissed after prosecutors couldn’t find her to testify.
Ten days before her death on January 23, mother and daughter moved into a new apartment. Susan planned to make a break from Antonio, but he soon convinced her to let him move in.
On the night Arrione died, Susan said she and Antonio argued after she saw text messages on his phone indicating he was seeing someone else.
“I woke him up and I said, ‘You know, we’re not working,'" she said. “'I just want a divorce. I want out.’”
She said he began punching her in the face. She grabbed a knife from the kitchen to protect herself but he got control of it during the struggle.
“I remember her saying, ‘Why don’t you just leave?’” Susan said. "The next thing you know, he’s like, 'I’m tired of ya’ll,’ and he just started slicing me.”
During the attack, Susan could also hear Arrione begging for her life. Susan lost consciousness. When she woke up, Arrione was gone. She crawled to her phone and called 911.
The tip of the knife was still lodged in Susan’s back.
When Susan awoke after surgery, a hospital chaplain told her that Arrione had died.
Arrione was stabbed twice – once in the chest and shoulder.
“I couldn’t talk,” Susan said. “I couldn’t believe my baby was gone.”
Police soon took Antonio into custody. He claimed self-defense.
Susan was released from the hospital after four days. She returned to an empty, blood-stained apartment. Even after the blood was covered up, Susan replayed the images of that night over and over.
She moved into another apartment with her younger daughter in May.
“I always think about what would have happened if I had let him go,” she said. “I think about how I’d be visiting her at her dorm and how we’d be fixing up her door room right now.”
Susan found a box at a yard sale. She filled it with mementos that remind her of Arrione. It contains, among other items, her daughter’s Sharpie from her Starbucks job, her honors tassel and the key ring to the car she got shortly before she died.
“If I start missing her, I look at these things,” she said. “It helps me.”
As she digs through the box, she can’t feel anything in her left hand. She has nerve damage from the stab wounds.
Susan tries to keep a smile on her face. It helps with the anger.
“I’m happy to be talking about her,” she said. “I’m happy to know she’s in a better place. I’m happy, but I’m not happy she’s not here.”
She wishes she’d listened to her daughter. She wishes she could apologize. She wishes she had never let Antonio move back in. She wishes that she could trade places.
“I would also tell her how proud of her I am and how much I love her,” she said.
Susan has a message to other woman in similar situations.
“If you don’t see the red flags, it’s just cause you don’t want to,” she says. “They’re always there. If you feel any less of a woman, then that’s a red flag. It’s time to move on.”
Aaliyah, a University of Texas at Arlington sophomore, cried as she talks about the friend who she said brought out the best in others.
“Even though my best friend isn’t here with us anymore, she still lives through me every day,” she said.
She sees lessons in her friend’s death.
“If you’re putting your life in danger, then that means you’re putting your child’s life in danger," she said. "And by the time you realize, it could be too late."