NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Sixteen years after her mother was brutally murdered in South Nashville, her killer remains on the run, and her daughter is still waiting for answers.
Freweini Gebremicael, or Winnie as she was known by friends, came to Nashville as a refugee after escaping war-torn East Africa. She started her own business in downtown, the City Coffee Shop in the Market Street Emporium on Second Avenue, and was taking care of her two children. She became a U.S. citizen in 2001.
"Going from not speaking any English to owning a business," recalled her daughter Rutta Simon. "I thought that was pretty awesome. She was always a happy person. She put a smile on a lot of people's faces. She loved her family."
On May 4, 2006, Gebremicael dropped her daughter off at Glencliff High School in the morning, but never returned home that night. The following day, her car was found on Foster Court in South Nashville. It had been abandoned and was unlocked while her purse and credit cards were left inside. Her family filed a missing person report with Metro Police. On May 7, 2006, Gebremicael's body was discovered along Whitsett Road next to Mill Creek. She had been shot in the head and set on fire.
"It almost felt like I was in a horror movie," said Simon. "I didn’t believe it at first. I still don't understand it."
Simon said she can't recall anything out of the ordinary in the days leading up to Gebremicael's death, and said she has no idea who would want to kill her mother.
Detective Matthew Filter with the Metro Nashville Police Department said it has been several years since investigators have received any tips on the case, and there are currently no suspects.
"Whoever did this had to have some personal connection to her," said Filter. "Someone went through a process to try and cover up what they did."
Detective Filter said tips from the public could help heat up the cold case.
"Anyone that had any kind of relationship with Winnie, we would request they come forward and talk to us," said Filter.
"I can’t do this by myself," added Simon. "I need the community to help because someone knows something."
Simon has held vigils on the anniversary of her mom's death and tried her best to share details of the case to spread the word. She hoped the efforts will one day pay off and bring closure.
"We can’t bring her back, but the least we can do is get some justice for her," Simon said.
If you have any information on Gebremicael's murder, please call the Metro Police Cold Case Unit at 615-862-7329, or Nashville Crime Stoppers at 615-74-CRIME. Her family is offering an $11,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the case.