FARGO — According to her friends, Denise Anderson had a kind and loving heart. She was a friend, mother and grandmother.
And according to her friend and former coworker, Natalie Hest, she was scared of a man she had recently dated and split up with.
In a July 16 Facebook Messenger conversation made available to The Forum, Anderson told Hest she and her ex-boyfriend dated for four months, but were no longer together.
Anderson told Hest that her ex was stalking her, leaving threatening messages at her workplace and had assaulted her two weeks previously, sometime around the beginning of July.
In the messages, Anderson shared pictures of the bruises she suffered during the assault, and she told Hest she had spoken with Fargo police, expressing dismay that he had not been arrested.
In response to The Forum's requests to confirm what kind of help was solicited, Fargo police responded that the reports are not available because they are now involved in a murder case
At one point in the Facebook conversation about the troubles she was having with her ex, Anderson confided in Hest that “aside from losing my mom, this has been the worst thing to happen."
The messages did not name the man she had been dating, but they took on particular gravity once Anderson was found dead in a north Fargo apartment on Aug. 1 after a fire was reported there.
The apartment was home to 44-year-old Sheldon Davis, who was charged Monday, Aug. 5, with murder, arson and endangering by fire or explosion in connection with Anderson's death.
Davis has a long criminal history that includes convictions for assault, false imprisonment, terrorizing and domestic violence. The cases span a number of states, including North Dakota, South Carolina and Georgia.
Hest said from what she knew of her friend, "I don’t think she would have sought out contact with this individual,” adding that Anderson was a strong person who stuck by her decisions once she made up her mind.
Hest said she felt the latter quality was important to make known about her friend in order to protect her memory.
Other friends sought to honor Anderson by helping other women facing domestic violence at the hands of an ex.
Jodi and Roger Beauchene maintain that Anderson had previously tried to get help from police, but ran into difficulties because North Dakota Century Code didn't include the type of relationship she had with her ex, according to an online petition.
The Beauchenes started the petition to introduce legislation on both the state and federal levels to change the definition of what a relationship is to clear up any gray areas that may exist regarding what constitutes domestic violence in North Dakota.
At the end of the petition Jodi Beauchene wrote: "I am asking that you sign this petition, share this petition to anyone and everyone you know, by doing so, when we define what is a relationship under the North Dakota Century Code, we not only honor her memory, we also save a life."
Another friend of Anderson's hoping to preserve her legacy is Megan Martin, who started a GoFundMe page to raise money to assist Anderson's son and his family with funeral costs.
"They are in the process of planning her funeral and the funds raised will help them cover the cost of the funeral and mitigate any unforeseen costs related to Denise’s passing and help support them in the months to come," Martin said in an email to The Forum.
"Denise’s life revolved around her family and friends," Martin wrote on the fundraising page. "She had the kindest heart of anyone you could ever hope to meet. Denise was loved immensely by all of her friends and family, whose hearts she will now live in forever. She was truly an angel among us, with a soul too beautiful for this earth. Our goal now is to honor the memory of our loving Denise in the best way that we can."
Those who wish to contribute to the fund may do so by visiting this link.