She had it all just a few years ago. A loving husband, a new daughter and a solid job at Micron.
But Mamokete Folkes' life began to unravel after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Her brutal death this week at a motel in Downtown Boise left family and friends whod known her since she arrived in the United States more than 22 years ago asking why and questioning whether society does enough to help the mentally ill.
"She had a tight circle of friends a small circle of friends. We did everything we could, but she just kept slipping into insanity," said Jennifer Lawrence, who met Folkes when her church, All Saints Episcopal Church, sponsored her family's move to Boise two decades ago.
Officers found the 46-year-old's body in a room at the Cabana Inn early Tuesday after her accused killer, Thomas Lee Herman, called 911 and said he may have just killed someone. Herman, 55, remains in the Ada County Jail without bond on a first degree murder charge.
Prosecutors say he beat Folkes to death. She died of blunt force trauma and had shoe prints on her face from repeated stomps, according to court records.
Now, as the debate about how to treat mental illness continues on a national stage and in Idaho, Lawrence is trying to plan a memorial service for a woman she last saw about two years ago but who had disappeared mentally long before.
Lawrence, who retired after 30 years at a local law firm and now works part-time as a nurse's aide, told a Statesman reporter Folkes' story, hoping her death won't be in vain.
A DIFFERENT PERSON
Maybe a woman on the streets will realize the danger she is in. Or maybe we will begin to pay closer attention to the most troubled among us.
"I just feel like this country doesn't recognize mental illness as being an illness like cancer or diabetes," Lawrence said.
She learned of Folkes' death from Folkes' ex-husband after Boise police visited him at Micron, where he works as an engineer. Lawrence said Folkes once worked long hours in the sterilization area there but lost her job as her mental illness took hold.
Lawrence met Folkes and her son because her mother helped transport them around town when they arrived in Boise as refugees from Lesotho, a small African country bordered on all sides by South Africa.
Lawrence remembers a caring woman with a bright future who worked hard to provide for herself after her first husband left her alone with their young son soon after arriving in Idaho.
She found a job, remarried and expanded her family. But mental illness slowly consumed her life.
Folkes drifted in and out of mental hospitals, and on and off medication before seeming to fully embrace street life a couple years ago.
She and her husband, who obtained a marriage license in 1996, divorced in 2008, according to Ada County court records.
Folkes was convicted of domestic violence battery that same year. Shes also picked up several other misdemeanor convictions, including two for possession of an open container in January and February. Shed made no attempt to contact her ex-husband or their daughter recently, Lawrence said.
Over the years, Lawrence said, it's as though Folkes slowly became a different person.
"It's like Jekyll and Hyde," Lawrence said.
TRAGIC FAMILY LEGACY
Folkes' son, now 24, also suffers from mental problems, Lawrence said.
Lawrence has searched local shelters for him, but police investigating Folkes murder told Lawrence last week that they believe he is living on the streets in Spokane, Wash.
Folkes had been the victim of violent crime before, Lawrence said.
She remembers city prosecutors contacting her a couple of years ago when they were looking for Folkes to testify as the victim in an assault case. Lawrence told them she'd dropped her off at a home in Boise. When police heard which one, they warned Lawrence not to go there because it wasnt safe.
Lawrence said Folkes never testified against her assailant in that case, and his charges were dismissed.
According to a recent survey by Boise State University of homeless Idahoans, drug or alcohol abuse was the most common nonfinancial reason the people who were interviewed gave for being homeless. Several studies conducted nationwide in recent years also have found strong links between addiction and homelessness, though percentages vary greatly.
Those factors can lead to difficulties investigating and prosecuting crimes. Folkes' accused killer had been in trouble in December for attacking another woman with a knife, but a judge approved a lenient plea deal pitched by prosecutors, who said the victims credibility and the lack of evidence made it difficult to proceed.
Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower said Hermans conviction, which was for misdemeanor disturbing the peace, can be used to get him more time in prison if hes convicted in Folkes' murder.
Herman's victim in December, Diane Marie Cain, also is homeless and told the Statesman she warned Folkes about Herman.
Lawrence said she'd also warned Folkes about the dangers of her lifestyle.
"I told her she was going to get hurt one of these days, letting these men pick her up," Lawrence said.
But Folkes seemed so far gone. It was difficult to reach her. And as her mental health unraveled, it took her once happy life with it.
"It's almost like people think (the mentally ill) have alternatives," Lawrence said.
"And they don't."
Meghann Cuniff: 377-6418