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Clairton vigil remembers murder victim

| Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 3:43 a.m.
Karren Hines, right, and Danielle Hamlin take part in a vigil Sunday in Clairton on the third anniversary of the murder of Hines' daughter Uniquea. Ronald Vezzani Jr.| Daily News
Avanti Halcomb and Jeanette Meacham of Clairton took part in a vigil marking the third anniversary of the murder of Uniquea Hines on Sunday in Clairton. Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News

About 40 people gathered in Clairton Sunday to remember a city woman killed three years ago on Bataan Avenue.

Uniquea Hines, 23, was murdered on Jan. 6, 2010, just after 1 a.m. in the 4900 block of Bataan Avenue in Clairton's Century Townhomes.

Karen Hines conducts a candlelight vigil on the anniversary of her daughter's death.

“I got a lot of support,” she said. “But they don't know how much it's eating me up. I just want to keep her memory alive. I do it every year, and it's getting a better turnout every year. I know it helps me, but I get anxiety attacks the week of it because it's right after Christmas.

“I've got to be strong for everybody. I'm crying right now inside. It's hard.”

Herbert Benson, Uniquea Hines' ex-boyfriend and the father of her two children, was charged in connection with the murder. Benson reportedly stabbed her more than 70 times.

He agreed to a plea deal, and was sentenced to 20-40 years in prison by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen in October 2011.

Benson pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, fleeing or attempting to elude officers, resisting arrest, simple assault, and two counts of endangering the welfare of children.

“I wanted him to have (a) life (sentence),” she said. “It really mattered to me, but I didn't want to take a chance on that crime of passion (defense). It should never be crime of passion. That's ridiculous.”

Still. she said the plea agreement spared the family from having to sit through a trial and relive the tragic incident — “to keep us from going through all the stabbings; I couldn't go through with that,” she said.

“I couldn't even see my baby until the undertaker finished with her. That's how bad my daughter looked,” she continued. “I couldn't bear (sitting through a trial). Not for my kids, my other kids, my mom. I couldn't let my family go through that.”

Uniquea graduated Clairton High School in 2005. She played basketball and worked as a certified nursing assistant at in Jefferson Hills.

Deron Jackson said Uniquea, known to many as “Nene,” was a long-time friend and was like a cousin to him.

“We were right next to each other in the same building and were close in age so we did everything together,” Jackson said. “(She was) funny, kind-hearted, friendly, caring, just everything you could think of. The people who knew her know she was a caring person and would take care of anybody but herself.”

Jackson Sunday's vigil was the first he has attended. The first two, he said, were too emotional for him.

“I honestly couldn't come up here (anymore),” Jackson said. “I told my aunt Karen and her sister that I would come this year. I need to get it over with, and to see everybody who is gathered here to remember her means a lot to me. I know she's appreciated.”

Uniquea is survived by her sons Andrea,7, and DeShawn, 5.

Karen Hines said the boys are aware of what happened to their mother and father.

“They kind of know,” she said. “They understand they'll never see their father again.”

Karen Hines said it's her mission to talk to people and make sure they're not in an abusive relationship like her daughter and Benson.

“Don't ever get abused by anybody, female or male,” Karen Hines said. “That's my mission to save a life. There are a lot of girls getting abused and it's got to stop.”

Iesha Porter was at Karen Hines' side during the vigil. They have been friends for 22 years.

“I really can't describe in words what this feels like,” Porter said. “This day is like it's happening all over again. God is good. Karen's a good mom and good grandma. I'm just blessed that this many people love Nene, and are willing to come out in the cold.

“We just want women to know that if you're in a situation where you're being abused, where you're being hurt, you can tell somebody. Somebody cares about you.”

Porter said that lesson was learned too late to help Uniquea.

“This could have been prevented,” Porter said. “Nene was too young to lose her life. Anything you'd ask her to do, she'd do. She was always on time. She was always considerate of others. She was a very hard worker. She loved her family. She was a good girl.”

The family is planning an event for Aug. 22, Uniquea's birthday.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or

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