Home

By JUANITA COUSINS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

BLACK BEAUTY QUEEN WAS ACQUITTED OF MURDER:

Beauty queens usually relinquish their crowns at the end of their reigns, but Sharron "Nikki" Redmond, above — nationally known as the last Miss Savannah — said she knows she will forever carry the title.

Redmond, originally the fourth runner-up, inherited the title after the original Miss Savannah 2003 won Miss Georgia. Four months later, Sharron Nicole Redmond, who goes by Nikki, was accused of fatally shooting her two-timing fiancé during a confrontation in the yard of the other woman. In 2005, she was acquitted, citing self-defense.

Redmond, 25, now lives in the Atlanta area and said she has done her best to move on. Last October she married the high school sweetheart who stood by her side during the trial.

He was extremely supportive, wrote me and called me every day and night," she said. The two went from "just friends" to rekindling their earlier romance.

Redmond, who graduated summa cum laude from Spelman College in 2003, earned a master's degree in education at Kennesaw State University last month.

She works for an education organization in Atlanta that helps private school teachers develop their curriculum, lesson plans and individual assessments for students.

Redmond said she hopes to open a private k-12 school that will teach African-American students about their history and culture as she learned during her Spelman experience.

The petite woman who belted "I Am Changing" from the Broadway show "Dreamgirls" on stage at the 2003 pageant continues to sing, perform and write her own R&B ballads that she said are meant to empower women.

"It keeps me living and breathing," she said.

Redmond, who was 21 years old when she began dating her ex-fiancé Kevin Shorter, (second photo) said he began to show a different side a few months into their relationship. Shorter would slap, violently grab and kick her, sometimes leaving bruises, according to court documents. He was also verbally abusive and would follow her around.

The two were engaged for about three months when Redmond discovered Shorter also was engaged to another woman. On Dec. 16, 2003, Redmond went to the woman's home where the three quarreled in the front yard. The argument ended when a bullet intended as a warning shot ricocheted off Shorter's car and hit him. Redmond drove away and was arrested the following day at her home; Shorter was taken to a hospital and died three days later.

Besides local news coverage of the case on television and in newspapers, the incident was featured on Court TV and on Oxygen's "Snapped." But Redmond said she did not participate in the shows' productions because they "make a mockery of bad situations."

She is tangled in lawsuits involving her and Shorter's parents. After the acquittal in 2005, Daniel and Phyllis Shorter filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against Redmond saying she intentionally shot their son "in a jealous rage."

Redmond filed a $2 million countersuit saying she acted "in reasonable fear for her life" and was abused mentally and physically by Kevin Shorter.

Phyllis Shorter would not comment. Several phone calls and e-mails to the Shorter family attorney, Jeffery Laskey, were not returned.

Redmond's attorney, Michael Schiavone, said the lawsuits are pending and in deposition stages.

Redmond said the incident gave her a "deeper outlook" on life and taught her to trust her instincts about people.

"You have to make your obstacles into your pedestals," she said.

Occasionally, she said, people will stop her to ask if she is Miss Savannah or to share their similar situations.

"I try to tell them 'if you're in an abusive relationship, you need to leave because you never know how it will affect your future,'" she said. "I'm happy in my skin. It's not something that I hide, but life goes on."

Meanwhile in Savannah, pageant officials maintain that the Miss Savannah pageant was not ended because of a tarnished title. Former executive director Wendi Patrick said the name was changed to Miss First City and declared an open pageant to give it a regional appeal and solicit more experienced, previous title holders.

"The great thing about the Miss America system is that is has been around for nearly 80 years and incidents of all kinds come and go," Patrick said last week. "A true testimony of the national organization is that it is bigger than the sum of any individual."

Patrick said its directors — who volunteer — now are too busy with their personal lives to organize any pageant in the Savannah area.

"When God means for you to have something, it will happen," Redmond said. "I will always be the last Miss Savannah. That will forever follow me."

"SIMILAR CASE"

SINGER ANDY WILLIAMS' EX-WIFE GETS AWAY WITH MURDER:

Singer Andy Williams'  ex-Claudine Georgette Longet, above, (born on 29 January 1942 in Paris, France) was a popular singer and recording artist in the 1960's and 1970's. She gained further notoriety as the ex-wife of singer Andy Williams and later for being convicted for killing skiing star Spider Sabich, above.

Singer Andy Williams pictured with ex-wife Claudine Longet

Claudine Longet met Andy Williams when he pulled over to aid her on a Las Vegas road. She was a dancer at the time at the Folies Bergere. They married on Christmas Day, 25 December 1961, and had three children: Noëlle, Christian, and Robert.

Longet was arrested and charged with the 21 March 1976 shooting death of her lover, Olympic skier Vladimir "Spider" Sabich, at his Aspen, Colorado home after he had showered and was preparing to dress. Sabich was a very handsome athlete with no lack of female companionship when he met Longet. As their relationship progressed, Longet and her three children moved in with Sabich, radically altering his bachelor life. There were widespread rumors of discord between the couple before the shooting. Spider had told friends he wanted Claudine out of his house but had taken no real action to evict her because he adored her children. At the sensational trial, Longet claimed the gun discharged accidentally as Sabich was showing her how it worked. Despite the fact that the autopsy found that Sabich was bent over with his back turned to her and Claudine was no closer than 6 feet (1.8 meters) from him, she stuck to her story that it was a tragic accident. Williams very publicly supported Claudine throughout the trial, even escorting her to and from the courthouse.

The Aspen police made two enormous blunders which turned the tide for Longet. They took a blood sample from her and confiscated her diary without warrants. Longet's blood contained cocaine and her diary showed that her relationship with Sabich had turned bitter. Since the evidence was not obtained legally the prosecution could not enter it into evidence. The gun was also mishandled by non-weapons experts. It was given to a policeman, who wrapped it in a towel and put it in the glove compartment of his unit; for 3 days it was unaccounted for.

Put on the stand, Longet reiterated her innocence and pleaded for mercy because her three young children needed her. The jury acquitted her of felony manslaughter but convicted her of criminal negligence, a misdemeanor, and sentenced her to pay a small fine and spend 30 days in jail. As a generous gesture, Judge Lohr allowed Longet to choose the days she served, believing that this arrangement would allow her to spend the most time with her children. Longet chose to work off most of her sentence on weekends. Once the trial was over, she took off for a vacation with her defense attorney Ron Austin. Austin left his wife and children to do so. Longet and Austin later married and remain together, residing in Aspen.

Longet has never performed again. After the criminal trial, the Sabich family initiated civil proceedings to sue Longet. The case was eventually settled out of court for a large monetary settlement, with the proviso that Longet never tell or write about her story. They also demanded that Claudine withdraw from public circulation her recording of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)."