NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans – Long after her flash of celebrity on the big screen as a 12-year-old, Jonshell Alexander continued to be a bright light to her family and friends.
“She would light up any room. She was feisty, she was jazzy, she always wanted to be girly,” said her mom Shelley Alexander.
Now Jonshell's family and friends are planning her funeral. The 22-year-old was fatally shot Saturday night in the 7th Ward, apparently an unintended victim of a gunman aiming apparently aiming for someone she was with.
Jonshell played the role of Joy Strong in the low-budget hit movie “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” about an impoverished South Louisiana bayou community fighting for survival. The movie was shot in Terrebonne Parish.
She played the role of a friend of the 6-year-old protagonist Hushpuppy, played by Quvenzhané Wallis. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including the best actress nod for Wallis.
Jonshell was shot intersection of Claiborne Avenue and Columbus Street at about 9 p.m. while sitting in a car with her male companion. He was also hit but was able to drive himself to a hospital.
The family first heard information about Jonshell’s friend being shot. Then, when they tried to text or call her, the silence provided an ominous sign that something was terribly wrong.
“So when I got the phone call (confirming her death), I just dropped to my knees. I didn't know what to think,” Shelley Alexander said.
Word spread quickly. Her father Johnny Alexander found out at work.
“Right then and there I just froze,” he said. “I just stood still for like two hours. I couldn't do anything. Because that was my baby girl.”
Despite the attention of credit and significant screen time in the hit movie, Jonshell did not have ambitions to be in another film. But true to her buoyant personality, she stayed active in dance and on the cheerleading team at Martin Luther King High School, where she graduated four years ago.
“I'm going to miss her so much,” said her friend Terryal Rogers. “She was everything to us. She was like that missing puzzle in our gang that we needed.”
Jonshell leaves behind a one-year-old daughter.
Investigators are still in the process of gathering evidence and information to identify the person(s) involved in this incident, as well as a motive. Homicide Detective Brittany Kimbrough is in charge of the investigation and can be contacted at 504-658-5300. Citizens with information can call CRIMESTOPPERS at 822-1111.