On the morning of September 6, 2021 a 49-year-old man with severe mental illness entered a gym in the 9700 block of Pacific Avenue. He asked about a membership and then attacked the clerk before leaving. Shortly after that altercation, about a block away he encountered 40-year-old Rikki Lynn Millerup, a homeless woman who stayed in a tent near there. He cut her throat then stabbed her ten more times. The man then stole her wallet and debit card from her backpack. A friend of Rikki’s saw her in her tent that morning but assumed she was passed out until he saw her in the same position hours later and called authorities. She was dead when first responders arrived becoming the twentieth Tacoma homicide of 2021.
Rikki’s killer was found hiding in bushes shortly after.
I was unable to find much information about Rikki Lynn Millerup. This is fairly common when the victim is homeless. People say she was a nice person. In situations like this I’m forced to rely on thoughts and memories of people who knew the victim to fill in what isn’t available. This is why the comment section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Rikki and want to share the stories of the person they’ve lost.
– Jack Cameron
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I knew Rikki when we were young kids. We met in kindergarten. She was my first little friend. I have many fond memories of us talking on the phone, having slumber parties, playing at Gonyea & Spanaway Park, and skating at Spinning Wheels.
We lost contact when I moved away and changed schools. I’ve thought about her throughout the years and always hoped she was doing well.
I started working near Pac Ave and would unknowingly see her regularly on my way to work the past several years. She caught my eye when I would stop at the light and I wondered what her story was. It was uncommon for me to see young homeless women by themselves on the street, at the time, so she stood out. I didn’t recognize her, but I felt a connection. When I saw on the news that a woman had been killed in the area, my mind immediately went to her. I thought, “Oh, no! I hope it wasn’t the homeless girl.” But how would I ever know? I didn’t even know her name. And I didn’t drive the same route anymore because I moved in the summer and now came from a different direction, so I hadn’t seen her for months and didn’t know if she was even still in the area. But for some reason, I felt like I needed to know. Like, I should have known her name. Because she mattered.
I kept checking for updates on the news, but I couldn’t find anything. Then absolute shock set in when the medical examiner finally released information days later. I could NOT believe my eyes when I read the name. At first it was just pure disbelief. There’s no way that the little homeless girl that I drove past for years was my best friend from kindergarten. I would have known. I mean, I would have recognized her, right? For some reason I couldn’t reconcile the fact that I passed her everyday for years and didn’t realize it was her. I don’t know how to explain it but it was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced. Then came the grief and anger. Knowing my old friend had died, and the gruesome manner in which it happened. Then a weirdly selfish denial, stemming from the shame of inaction and indifference set in. Yes, Rikki had died, but she couldn’t possibly be the girl I passed on a daily basis. I just wouldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t allow myself to believe it because then I’d have to engage in some serious self-reflection.
The hard truth is, it was her. (I came across a clip from Fox 13 News that included some pics and confirmed it.) *heavy sigh* I drove past someone that I had once loved dearly for years and years and never stopped. Never helped. Never truly cared enough to do anything. Never looked long enough to see the actual person. But I did judge. Oh, did I judge. Harshly. And for that I am ashamed. The honest truth is that I had a negative outlook on homeless people and this extended to her, when I was unaware of who she was. And that’s the thing. Even though I looked for her when I was stopped at the light and worried for her safety, thought about her during the beginning of Covid 19 and whenever we had inclement weather, if I’m being 100% honest, I also looked down on her for the drugs and whatever other choices had gotten her in that position, like I looked down on most homeless people.
And that’s hard to swallow. The realization that every homeless person is someone’s “Rikki.” They all had parents, relatives, friends who loved them. Memories. Lives. Homes. They weren’t always this — and they’re not only that. They’re people. Somewhere along the way, I allowed myself to lose humanity for others. Her death made me find it again.
It’s a lesson I will take with me the rest of my life.
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