The family of Alana Sims, the Florida mother found dead next to her SUV, is asking who would want to harm such a positive person.
Law enforcement says the young woman was targeted, opening up more questions than they have answers.
On Monday, Jan. 30, around 10 p.m., Sims’ lifeless body was discovered by a passerby lying beside her vehicle as it was parked on a street near the Easton Park Subdivision in New Tampa. The single mother’s only child was safe, sleeping inside the Ford EcoSport where his mother was found. The 22-year-old’s family said the neighborhood is not familiar to them, and they are curious why she would have been in the area, according to WTSP 10.
Tampa police believe foul play led to her death, telling the family evidence suggests she was killed by someone who knew her and that she had been dead for a while before being discovered.
Crystal Clark, a spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department, said, “At this point, we’re saying her injuries are upper body trauma. I can tell you when she was laying on the ground, it appeared she had been deceased for a bit of time.”
“This is a complete tragedy,” Clark said according to FOX News. “You have a child now who’s without a mother because someone took her life while the child was sitting right there in the car behind her as it happened.”
“We don’t believe it was random and we’re following up on a lot of leads right now,” interim Police Chief Lee Bercaw said. “The offense in itself is gut-wrenching, and I feel for the family and the community and even the officers who go out and respond to those types of calls.”
Her sister, Carli Williams, says the family is unsure “why she was in that area,” noting that while they have lived all of their lives in Tampa, where she was found was not a usual route for the young mother.
Williams also added, “We have no idea what happened, what we know is pretty much what the police know.”
She also stated her sister was five months pregnant.
Sims’ mother, Shahlevi Sims, started a GoFundMe to help with the unexpected costs related to the sudden death and raising her almost 23-month-old son. The family says they will assume care for the child.
Currently, the child is staying with his grandmother.
This is called kinship caregiving, a form of third-party custody, where family members step up to care for a child when their parent is not able. In this case, when a custodial parent dies, if there is no will, life insurance, Social Security benefits, or assets, the child becomes the financial responsibilty of whoever is taking care of them. Because of Sims’ young age, she may not have had these wealth management arrangements set up.
According to Child Welfare, support from the state will be tricky, placing an additional worry of financial security for the toddler. The family will decide if they want to seek voluntary or formal kin caregiver status, and that will determine if the state can come in and help with benefits for the child.
The goal for immediate relief was set for $4,000, however, over the last two days, the family has received over $14,000 in donations.
Shahlevi Sims said her daughter, a graduate of Chamberlain High School, was maturing quickly after becoming a mother, in a Tampa Bay Times interview, “She no longer clubbed, she no longer went out to bars, she just loved spending time with her son.”
Family members said Sims was just special and everyone knew that.
“She always had a smile on her face. Was always positive no matter what,” her sister said. “Alana, she was like a mother to all of us. Everyone makes the joke, even though I’m older than her, she was taller than me.”
“She would do anything for you, always going out of her way,” her bereaved mother said. “She never said no.”
Sims would have turned 23 on Feb. 13.
The TPD is asking the community to step forward with information on the case. Call 813-231-6130 or share a tip through TIP411, accessible through the TampaPD mobile app.