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Growing up, Chiquita Snipes-Jackson was the girl everyone wanted to imitate.

She'd make up a new dance step, and soon all the kids would be doing it. She'd style her hair a certain way, and all her friends would start wearing their hair that way, too.

One day, she came to school with tiny rhinestones glued at the corners of her eyes. Her classmates christened it a trend.

Yet insecurity dogged her, even as she grew into a beautiful young woman.

"I'm not always confident enough to stand up straight or take the front walkway or look someone in the eye," she wrote several months ago as she approached her 25th birthday. "If I visit a friend I haven't seen in six months, will she notice the 10 pounds I've gained?"

Her lack of confidence baffled her younger sister Asia Snipes, 20.

"People craved her attention," Snipes said. "They were always looking for her approval."

Born and raised in Largo, Mrs. Snipes-Jackson attended the gifted program at Ridgecrest Elementary and was a cheerleader at Largo Middle School. She gave birth to a son, Jhadyn, the year before she graduated from Largo High in 2002.

That same year, a friend introduced her to Scott Jackson.

"Her smile just lit up the room," Jackson said. "She was the type of person you loved the minute you met her."

The couple's son, Cameron, was born two years ago. Mrs. Snipes-Jackson worked nights as a telemarketer so she could be home during the day with her boys.

"She loved her babies and her husband and her family," said her sister Deana Teharte, 22. "We talked on the phone every day."

To her mother, she was the voice of reason.

"When everybody else was going crazy, she was thinking straight," Gwen Woods said. "She'd say, 'Just lean to God.'"

Deeply devout, Mrs. Snipes-Jackson was a member of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Largo. The Sunday before she died, she asked the pastor to pray for her children.

"I feel like she was preparing for this," Woods said. "She'd been reading her Bible."

Family members knew she had thyroid problems, but they didn't know she also had an enlarged heart. Her husband was stunned when Jhadyn, 8, ran to him the morning of Sept. 9 because he couldn't get his mother to wake up.

Teharte arrived at the house just as the paramedics were leaving. The medical examiner has performed an autopsy but has not yet determined a cause of death.

Mrs. Snipes-Jackson was 25.

Searching for some message of comfort, Teharte found a box of poems in her sister's closet, along with a Bible verse in her sister's handwriting.

I sought the Lord's help and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

"I think in the end," Teharte said, "she was peaceful in her mind, in her soul, and in her heart. I think she was happy with herself."


Chiquita M. Snipes-Jackson

Born: April 9, 1984.

Died: Sept. 9, 2009.

Survivors: Husband, Scott R.; children, Jhadyn Hill and Cameron I. Jackson; stepchildren, Scott A. Howell and Sky R. Jackson; parents, Cassandra and Robert L. Snipes and Gwenervere and Michael Woods; sisters, Deana Teharte and Asia Snipes; brother, Willie Turner.