Friends remember Witt’s infectious smile, love for others

Customers, friends, members of the community and others left flowers at the door of Dr. Shauna Witt’s optometry office at the Walmart Supercenter on Highway 12 following her death on Saturday (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

It’s never easy to process the death of a loved one.

It can become even more burdensome when that life was taken unexpectedly.

Shock waves were sent through the community when Starkville optometrist Dr. Shauna Witt was shot to death inside of the Walmart Supercenter on Highway 12 where she worked on Saturday.

Officers with the Starkville Police Department arrested the suspect, Tommy Chisholm, following the shooting and he has since been charged with capital murder. The two had been in an “on-again, off-again” dating relationship, according to investigators.

On social media, an outpouring of support and disbelief could be seen in the minutes and hours following the shooting, as customers, colleagues and friends of the beloved optometrist expressed their feelings. A date and time for a memorial service has not been set as of Monday afternoon.


While Witt was unmarried and had no children, scores of friends were left hurting and searching for answers in the wake of her death.

Sardis native Amanda Wolfe, 42, knew Witt for more than three decades and told the Starkville Daily News she couldn’t recall one specific memory about her friend that stood out as more special than any other, because she cherished all of her time spent with Witt.

“(I’ll remember) her wonderful laugh, baby doll shoes, and her black bedroom, and she and her family being there for me when my mom and dad lived overseas when I was in college,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said the news of her friend’s death was difficult to process, but said she had noticed signs of problems.

“Utter devastation and shock but I wasn’t surprised that it was (Chisholm) because she had confided in me about this relationship,” Wolfe said. “I still cannot believe it and haven’t accepted it.”

McComb native Bess Patterson, 35, first met Witt in 2005 and said she will never forget Witt’s genuine nature.

“I will always remember … her huge heart and love for her friends, her smile and her laugh,” Patterson said. “She had a laugh that was contagious.”

Patterson said her reaction to the news of Witt’s death is difficult to express.

“Shocked, angry, sad, numb and empty,” Patterson said. “I am bitter, so bitter. I don’t know how else to describe how I felt. Right now, I’m just numb.”

Despite the wave of sadness overcoming so many that were close to Witt, Patterson also said a wealth of pleasant memories was left behind.

“My favorite memory? Wow, I have so many,” Patterson recalled. “I would say my favorite memory would have to be our Orange Beach trip several years ago. When we got there around 10:30 p.m., we immediately went and put our feet in the sand. I had a very bad week and she always said “road trip” any time either of us were down. So we took a road trip and had the absolute best time. Just the two of us.”

Patterson’s mother, 60-year-old Nancy McRight of Madison, said Witt was like another daughter and a younger sister to her.

“(Witt and Patterson) were just the best of friends and she practically stayed at my house,” McRight said. “If she couldn’t get home to the family for the holidays, she came with us.”

McRight remembered Witt as a woman of character, who spoke what was on her mind.

“(Witt) had a strong faith and a smile that lit up a room, a beautiful smile,” McRight said. “She didn’t like negative and didn’t want to hear it. She was so much fun.”

McRight recalled her favorite memories of Witt were simple things - small, yet warm moments.

“The late night talks, suppers, we always cooked and stayed up late, chatted and talked, and took spur-of-the-moment trips,” McRight said. “She had a lot of great friends that are just saddened.”

Above all else, Patterson said those in the community should remember one thing about Witt.

“Shauna would want everyone to remember her smile and the happy times,” Patterson said. “She was always smiling, and if she wasn’t smiling, you can guarantee she was laughing. Shauna is in heaven dancing with her beloved father who passed several years ago. She missed him dearly and is with him now.”

McRight said she wanted people to remember Witt as more than an optometrist and said she will always carry with her an image of her smile - a smile so many friends have said they will cherish.

“It was infectious,” McRight said. “I will forever miss her coming through my door.”