India Woods sat in the Kansas City courtroom and stoically listened to the gruesome details of the last moments of her best friend’s life.
Lawyers described how 18-year-old Daizsa Bausby was murdered and left cut and bruised, partially clothed and sprawled across the bed in a seedy south Kansas City motel room. Her friend had been lured to the 4 Acre Motel by her father, Jerry Bausby. He’s sentencing is set for Sept. 20.
Last Monday a Jackson County Circuit Court jury found him guilty of sexually molesting and murdering his daughter.
Daizsa’s death in March 2016 would devastate Woods. And inspire her.
“The least I owe her is to make the future count,” Woods had said that spring. “Everything I do, I will do to the best of my ability. Not just for me, but for the two of us.”
Now three years later, Woods, 21, has graduated from the University of Missouri and landed a job that helps her continue to honor her friend.
Before her death, Daizsa, an honor student, was set to graduate, second in her class, with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from Metropolitan Community College. She had received offers from about a dozen four-year colleges but was leaning toward Grambling State University in Louisiana. She would have delivered the final commencement address at Southwest High School before Kansas City Public Schools would shut the school down.
Woods saw a parallel. “Daizsa died, and Southwest will die,” she said at the time.
Daizsa ran track, played basketball and was a member of Junior ROTC. She was a cheerleader, a music lover and often made what she called “goofy” videos, in which she made up comedic characters, always dancing, always smiling.
She and Woods had planned to attend prom together, graduate together and remain friends for life.
That May, two months after Daizsa was killed, Woods stepped on stage at graduation and took her friend’s place as salutatorian. She delivered a farewell to the school and to Daizsa. She pledged on that day to live the rest of her life for her friend.
On the phone from Columbia after the trial, Woods paused a moment before she could talk about her friend’s death. She took in a deep breath, as if drawing strength from somewhere.
Woods said she knew before walking into the courtroom about the ugliness Daizsa had endured in that motel room — and perhaps for years before that. The two of them had been close and shared a lot of painful stories about their childhoods, Woods said.
“Yes there were some details I hadn’t heard before, and that was pretty difficult,” Woods said.
But what moved her most, she said, was Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s closing arguments.
“I am so grateful for her emotion and how she drove it home that Daizsa was literally so close to making it out” of a rough home life and tough community on Kansas City’s East Side, Woods said.
“When she held up Daizsa’s picture I was touched. I had never seen someone fight so hard for Daizsa. She was always the one advocating for everyone else.”
It helped too, Woods said, that she sat in the courtroom with one of their former teachers, Hayley Steel, and Daizsa’s sister, Kenya Bausby, now 18, the age Daizsa was when she was killed. Through Daizsa, she said, the three of them are forever bound together.
Steel had once described Daizsa as “a rose that grew from concrete.” Woods agrees.
“I know Daizsa went through a lot of the same things that I went through,” Woods said. “I still can’t help thinking that maybe there was something more I could have done.”
She’s reminded every day of that thought. Daizsa’s name, date of birth and death are tattooed across Woods’ arm. A poster from a rally she organized to honor her friend hangs on the wall in the bedroom of her townhouse in Columbia. A photograph of Daizsa remains the background on Woods’ cellphone.
It was when Woods got to college, she said, that she truly realized how hard it would be to go forward without her bestie. “I’m very shy,” she said. “I always made friends through her. In college I had to figure out how to make friends without Daizsa.”
This spring Woods graduated from MU, after three years, with a degree in social work. This summer she landed a job with Missouri Alliance for Children and Families as a specialized case manager.
Woods works with foster children, many of whom have come from tough and broken homes. “As a young social worker I feel I am relatable. I know their life,” she said.
The job is one way Woods feels she honors Daizsa. “She is the reason I do what I do,” Woods said. “Just thinking about her personality — funny and good — pushes me to be better and kinder. It pushes me to make sure I’m a better friend, that I’m checking in more.
“My goal is that I never want to have another Daizsa. As long as I’m involved, I don’t want what happened to Daizsa to ever happen to another kid.”