SEPTEMBER 15 UPDATE
NICOLE AYERS (follow-up story from Philadelphia Inquirer)
Rutgers-Camden stunned by athlete’s slaying
By Darran Simon and Mike Newall
Inquirer Staff Writers
Nicole Ayres was starting anew.
She had just declared her major to be sociology at Rutgers University-Camden; her softball coach helped her pick classes. And she couldn’t wait to play softball again on the college level.
The 22-year-old Deptford High School and Fordham University standout hadn’t pitched for a college team for at least a year. Monday was the first day of fall practice at Rutgers.
But that morning, municipal workers discovered Ayres’ body about 10:30 a.m. on a pathway leading to a Southampton Township athletic field complex, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. The Westville native had been stabbed with a knife multiple times in the head, neck, and back, officials said.
She was likely killed early Monday morning, authorities said.
“She should be remembered for being more than just a star softball player, because she was way more than that,” said Brooke Keenan, 22, a captain on the Rutgers team. “She was a great person.”
Stephen Headley, 28, a Florence resident, was charged Tuesday with murder in connection with Ayres’ death. Police and prosecutors would not say how they tied Headley to the crime.
The Rutgers team held a meeting Tuesday after learning about Ayres’ death from their athletic director.
“All of us and the coach sat there for an hour crying with each other,” said Kate Sharples, a teammate. “No one really said anything. No one really knew what to say.”
Ayres’ family reported her missing to the Deptford Township police early Monday afternoon, said Deptford Detective Sgt. George Johnson.
She and Headley knew each other, but authorities didn’t offer more details on how they knew each other and how well.
Headley’s bail is set at $750,000.
On Monday evening, Headley asked his grandmother, a Medford resident, to drive him to his mother’s house in Pemberton because he wanted to meet with the two of them, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
During the meeting, he ran out of the Pemberton house into the street and was hit by a pickup truck. He was airlifted to Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton, where he is being treated for a fractured back, two fractured ankles, and multiple fractured ribs, authorities said.
The investigation also involved the Prosecutor’s Office and the police departments of Medford, Pemberton, Florence, and Deptford Townships.
At Deptford High, Ayres recorded a school record 920 strikeouts, according to the high school. She later attended Fordham University on an athletic scholarship.
“This is a shocking and terrible loss,” the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, president of Fordham, said Tuesday in a statement. “I cannot imagine the grief Nicole’s family must be feeling today, a grief intensified by the death of someone so young.”
In 2007, she was named the Atlantic 10 Conference’s Rookie of the Year, according to the school. When she made the A-10 All-Conference team that year, she had the second-most wins ever by a Fordham freshman with a 16-4 record. She finished with a 2.03 earned-run average and 133 strikeouts.
“We are absolutely stunned to hear about Nicole. It’s a sad day for us and the players who knew her. Our prayers and thoughts go out to her family and friends in this extremely difficult time,” Fordham softball head coach Bridget Orchard, who coached Ayres in the 2007-08 season, said in a statement.
She left Fordham after her sophomore year.
She took classes at Rutgers in the 2009-10 school year, but was not enrolled as a full-time student, said a university spokesman.
Ayres, who was expected to play on the Rutgers team in the spring, bonded with her future teammates when they played in a women’s fast-pitch summer league.
“From here on, we’re going to win everything for her,” Keenan said. “We are just going to take it all the way in her memory.”
Teammates said Ayres had a long-term boyfriend. She was a jokester and they could count on her on the mound. They called her Nicky or by her number: 5
During a summer-league game, she threw seven shutout innings and kept striking hitters out.
“That was her night,” Sharples said.
TEAM NEW JERSEY FALL CLASSIC
2010 Team NJ Fall College Showcase
October 8, 9, 10 (Fri to Sun)
Edison Angels Softball Complex
(this tournament is full)
- TX Texas Storm Durham
- TX Texas Storm Newsom
- TX Texas Houston Power
- TX Texas Bombers
- WA Washington Ladyhawks Miller
- OR Oregon Silver Bullets
- FL Florida Ultimate Gold
- FL Florida Fury
- VA Virginia Shamrocks
- VA Virginia Vienna Stars
- VA Virginia Legends
- IL Illinois Bash
- PA Pennsbury Gems
- PA Pittsburgh Power
- NC North Carolina Lady Blues
- SC South Carolina Carolina Elite
- RI Rhode Island Thunder
- NY Team Long Island
- MA Massachusetts Polar Crush
- NJ Jersey Intensity KOD
- NJ Jersey Inferno
- NJ Jersey Pride
- NJ Jersey Nightmare
- NJ Edison Angels
- NJ Morris County Belles
- NJ North Jersey Rocks
- NJ New Jersey Jaxx
- NJ Jersey Outlaws
- NY Conklin Raiders
TCS Rising Stars Showcase Events
2010 TCS Rising Stars “Rocks” Showcase Event Flemington, NJ – October 8-10, 2010
“The greatest show on Turf” at Diamond Nation
2010 TCS Rising Stars Fall Showcase Event Davie/Fort Lauderdale, FL – October 22-24, 2010
JENNIE FINCH CAMP
Jennie Finch and other national players will conduct a second camp this coming weekend at Radford University in Radford VA. The camp runs 9am to 3pm, Saturday and Sunday. Log on to Jennie’s web site to register.
The September-December 2010 issue of World Softball (“Medal Memories Made in Caracas”) is now available for online reading.
Go to http://www.isfsoftball.org/english/communication/magazine.asp and click on September-December under 2010 to access all the content, including:
· President’s Message
· World Championship Was a Grand Slam Success in Caracas
· News Made Off the Field in Venezuela Too
· Six Events, Four Regions, Many Winners
· Venezuela in Spotlight in Puerto Rico Too
· It’s Their Turn
· Youth Movement
· It’s in Development
· Behind the Plate
· News & Notes
DODGING THE BULLET IN CARACAS
The Economist has carried a story out of Caracas which our mainstream media seemed to have missed – which reminds of the potential danger Team USA faced when ISF President Don Porter switched the XII Championship from Oklahoma City to Caracas. The story:
“The chance of being shot in Caracas may be higher than just about anywhere else in the world, outside war zones. Cheuk Woon Yee Sinne, a baseball player from Hong Kong, found that out on August 13th. As she took the field for a match in the Women’s Baseball World Cup, at an army stadium in Venezuela’s capital, a stray bullet hit her in the leg. Her team promptly pulled out of the tournament.
“That was an embarrassment for the government of Hugo Chavez, which faces a legislative election on September 26. It said the shooting was an isolated incident and moved the tournament to a venue outside the capital. But, it also has another solution to Venezuela’s crime problem: suppress negative crime statistics and prevent the media from publishing gory images.”
Note that the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence says that a government report he has obtained puts the national murder rate at 75 per 100,000 people, almost twice as high as neighboring Colombia where the guerillas continue to wage war. The annual murder rate stood at 4,550 when Chavez took power; last year it was 19,113. El Nacional, which published photos of bodies in the morgue, has now been banned from publishing stories about violence and the media are prohibited from visiting the morgue.
The essential truths about violence in Caracas were known long before Porter’s decision. The fact that no Americans were hurt doesn’t alter a core fact: going to Caracas was reckless.
When such decisions are made, who in the room speaks for the players?
A MUSLIM BODYGUARD
I will save any thoughts about a mosque at Ground Zero, and panic in the Middle East created by a publicity-seeking preacher in Georgia (why can’t the media just to ignore the crackpots of the world; think of the old adage about the tree falling in the forest; if no one hears it, does the tree make a sound?). Instead, I offer a short story.
On one trip to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, I was invited as a diplomat to an outdoor Mass which was being celebrated by a cardinal from Rome. Quereshi, my bodyguard, was told to go to Mass with me, and do what ever I did. A very large man, he wasn’t much on genuflecting, and I knew he didn’t understand the Latin but did absorb the sermon in Pashto. When I joined the ranks of parishioners filing up to the altar for Communion, Quereshi followed. After I took Communion, he too accepted the Host. As we walked out, I explained to him the Catholic belief in transformation; this evidently devout Muslim blanched, stammered a few words and looked utterly bewildered until I spotted an Embassy official, a Pakistani, who convinced Quereshi he now stood in good with the same Lord we all worship.
PAKISTAN UNDER WATER
For a variety of reasons, I have had occasion to travel through all of Pakistan’s provinces, including the famed Northwest Frontier (Kyber rifles, Churchill, Gunga Din and all that). On one trip, we joined with USAID agricultural officials visiting the major villages which produced opium poppy for sale to heroin traders. Somehow, I thought that my powers of persuasion could convince these farmers, whose only cash crop was opium, to grow corn instead. All the men in the village of Mardan (now under water) assembled on a soccer field to hear my suasion, through an interpreter, that earning less from corn which is harder to transport by these people who walked to other villages for markets was in the interest of their national government – which had no relevance to them. The USA offered to provide the seed, hand tillers, and even a small cash bounty. Did they accept the offer? Villagers lined both sides of the road as we left – and stoned our car! I didn’t teach them a thing about responsible government; instead, I learned that these villagers owe their allegiances to their tribes and families, and were not nor would they ever be mistaken for corn farmers in Iowa.