NEW ORLEANS - Friends and family held a second line around Jackson Square on Sunday to remember Tshepiso Matlapeng-Sani.
The vibrant 34-year-old often displayed her art in the square. She died in the hospital the Saturday after Thanksgiving, two months after a heinous attack.
“We are suffering. Right now I barely sleep,” said M. Sani, Matlapeng-Sani’s husband.
“I want her back. I want to give her the love that I never did. I want to give her that love,” cried Joyce Howson, Matlapeng-Sani’s mother.
Matlapeng-Sani was unloading her car in front of her Central City home when she was viciously attacked in an attempted carjacking, said family members.
Her assailant beat her in the head with a gun and kicked her multiple times in the head as her 9-year-old daughter looked on, according to relatives.
Eventually, the man made off with Matlapang-Sani’s keys, but didn’t take the car.
Matlapang-Sani’s husband saw her minutes after the beating.
“She had her face swollen, bleeding on the mouth,” said Sani.
Matlapang-Sani went to the hospital for her injuries. A few weeks later, the headaches began.
“She was talking about heavy headache, and her head being so heavy, stiffness around the neck, and her head being a little bit bloated, sometimes she could not see,” said Howson.
Matlapeng-Sani had a medical condition that can cause headaches, but these were unlike anything she had ever experienced. She visited multiple hospitals. But relatives say nothing helped.
Days before her death, one doctor recommended seeing a psychiatrist.
“Her temperature was high but they send her back [home]. They give her pain medication but nothing was improving. Why can't they monitor and see what was going on?” asked Howson.
Relatives say doctors told them Matlapeng-Sani ultimately died of swelling in the brain.
The coroner's office is still investigating the cause of death. A spokesman says there were no obvious signs of injury, but they are in the process of performing more intensive tests before the autopsy is complete.
Police say that Matlapeng-Sani died of medical issues unrelated to the attack, so they are not investigating the case as a murder. But family members believe they should.
“It is murder. My daughter is not here,” said Howson. “It is murder.”
Friends have set up a memorial near Jackson Square to remember the artist and loving mother who they believe died as a result of August's vicious attack.
“I need people to remember her as a strong person, loving mother,” said Sani. “I'm going to miss her. I miss her a lot.”
The attempted carjacking is still under investigation and the suspect is still on the loose. If you have any information that could help police, call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.