Woman Beaten, Dies in Leap as Watchers Cheer
As dozens of onlookers gathered, some cheering, three men pulled a woman from her car, ripped off her clothes and chased her until she was forced off a bridge to her death.
None of the bystanders tried to help Deletha Word, 33, during the confrontation that began with two minor traffic accidents early Saturday on the Belle Isle bridge, said Police Sgt. John Morel.
A man who arrived late tried to rescue her from the Detroit River but couldn’t reach her. Her body, missing a leg, was found several miles downstream.
“My baby was down there all by herself. I know she was scared to death,” the woman’s mother, Dortha Word, said Monday. “How could they be so cruel?”
Trouble started about 3 a.m., Morel said, when Word was involved in two minor traffic accidents on Belle Isle. One car with three men inside chased her onto the bridge connecting the island to the city and rammed her car, forcing her to stop.
One of the men smashed her car with a crowbar and pulled her from the car, ripping off some of her clothes, Cmdr. Gerald Stewart said. The man pushed her against the car and beat her, he said.
One of the assailants weighed nearly 300 pounds, according to a police source quoted in the Detroit News. Word was 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds, her mother said.
When Word tried to run, police said, the man with the crowbar chased her. Police are not saying whether Word jumped or was forced off the bridge.
Lawrence Walker, 21, was in the bumper-to-bumper traffic that had formed on the bridge when he noticed a crowd running to the edge. He got out of his car and followed, jumping into the river after her. “I wasn’t trying to be Superman or anything. I just saw something and jumped in without thinking about it.”
Walker said about 50 people were gathered when he ran up, many of them laughing about the men beating Word. He said one person had a cellular phone but would not call police.
“It seemed like people didn’t care,” he said.
By Sunday afternoon, police had arrested three men. It was not clear what charges they faced.
Relatives described Word, who had a 13-year-old daughter and worked at a grocery store while earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing, as the backbone of their family. Since her brother had been fatally shot in May, she had been the family’s support.