Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Woman arrested in killing of Lincoln University student was allowed on campus because she was ‘family,’ official said

Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan announced the arrest of Nydira Smith for the fatal stabbing of Lincoln University student Jawine Evans.

The front entrance of Lincoln University where a student's sister killed another student during a fight last week.
The front entrance of Lincoln University where a student's sister killed another student during a fight last week.Read moreMensah M. Dean

Chester County police have arrested a Philadelphia woman and charged her with stabbing three Lincoln University students ― one fatally ― during a dorm-room brawl last week.

Nydira Smith, 39, was arrested Wednesday night and charged with first- and third-degree murder, homicide, possession of an instrument of crime, four counts of aggravated assault, and three counts each of reckless endangerment and simple assault, according to online court records, for allegedly stabbing Jawine Evans, 21, and two others.

Smith’s brother attends Lincoln and was involved in the fight, according to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

Smith, of the 7100 block of Ardleigh Street in East Mount Airy, is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing March 8.

During a Thursday morning news conference at the historically Black university, law enforcement officials declined to discuss a motive for the attack but disclosed that Smith was allowed onto the gated campus because she is related to a student.

“We treat close family members as extended members of the community,” said Marc Partee, Lincoln’s director of public safety and chief of police. When Smith drove to the front gate she presented her identification, verified her brother’s information, and said she was there to pick him up, he said.

“At that point, [Smith was] allowed on the campus.”

Partee characterized Smith’s actions as “a breach of the trust” rather than a breach of security. A comprehensive review of the incident is being conducted, he said, “to see if there is anything we can do in terms of best practices across the field, with the help of all of our resources.”

Evans’ parents said they were stunned by what they called lax campus security and have hired high-profile attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr.

» READ MORE: One student killed, two injured in stabbing at Lincoln University

Chester County District Attorney Deborah Ryan said she had no doubt Smith committed first-degree murder given that she armed herself with a knife and drove an hour and a half from her home to the campus “to join in a fight with the intent to kill.”

She said the deadly violence was “a parent’s worst nightmare. We send our children on to college for them to grow, to become independent, and to become productive members of our communities. Losing a child in a senseless and tragic incident like this is devastating not only to the families involved in this incident, but to the entire Lincoln University community.”

Partee said counseling services and comfort animals were made available to students in the aftermath of the violence.

The bloody brawl erupted inside the Thurgood Marshall Living Learning Center shortly after 9 p.m. During the fight, one person wielding a knife attacked three students, resulting in the death of Evans, of Philadelphia, who was stabbed in the neck and pronounced dead at the scene.

The two injured students, Eric Dickerson, and Clifton Walker, both 22, were treated for non-life-threatening wounds at Christiana Hospital in Wilmington.

The DA’s Office said investigators recovered three videos of the incident including one that shows Evans yelling, “She stabbed me,” and clutching the right side of his neck. That video also shows the moment that Smith plunged the knife into Evans’ neck, causing him to stagger backward with a traumatic arterial bleed from his neck, the office said.

Smith is also seen making stabbing motions toward the surviving two victims, while at least six more students were in the immediate vicinity, the office said.

Investigators recovered security footage from Lincoln University that shows a maroon Infiniti registered to Smith entering the campus at 9:07 p.m. — just before the stabbing — and leaving at 9:22, Ryan’s office said.

The Philadelphia Police Department located the Infiniti on Feb. 17 and, that same day aided by Chester County detectives, executed a search warrant at a home where the car was located on the 7100 block of Ardleigh, Ryan’s office said.

Bloodstained clothing matching what Smith was seen wearing on video during the murder was recovered, as was a set of knives from the home that had one knife missing, Ryan’s office said.

Additional evidence included medical paperwork from Chestnut Hill Hospital indicating that Smith sought treatment for a laceration to her hand, and human blood was found inside the Infiniti.

» READ MORE: After last week’s student death at Lincoln University, school leaders owe us answers | Jenice Armstrong

Housed on a 422-acre campus in Lower Oxford Township, Lincoln was founded in 1854 and has operated as a public, state-related institution since the 1970s. Among its prominent graduates were Thurgood Marshall, the first Black person to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court; Langston Hughes, the celebrated poet who rose to fame during the Harlem Renaissance; and Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. In 1946, Albert Einstein accepted an invitation to visit Lincoln to underscore his support for civil rights.

Despite that history, some parents complained about campus safety and faulted university officials for a lack of discipline.

“What has happened over time is they have allowed kids to party, drink, and drug,” said Carmina Taylor, a former president of the university’s parents’ association whose son graduated from Lincoln in 2016. “It’s a free-for-all.”

Meanwhile, Evans’ family and friends are preparing to bury him Friday.

Beverly Evans, his mother, said in a statement: “My husband and I are devastated over the loss of our beloved son, Jawine. We thought he would be safe on the campus of Lincoln University, and never dreamed such a terrible thing could happen there.

“We’re stunned at the lax university security, but extremely grateful to Chester County law enforcement for catching Jawine’s killer, and for DA Ryan’s comments showing she is taking a strong public stand to bring his killer to justice.”

Evans’ funeral is scheduled for Friday at the Met Philadelphia venue at 858 N. Broad St. A public viewing will begin at 8 a.m. followed by an 11 a.m. service. Interment will be at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Staff writer Ryan W. Briggs contributed to this article.