As a young girl, Nicole Rose Scott’s father went to prison. Her mother wasn’t around. For years, she was bounced from foster home to foster home.
Those are the troubled details that loved ones believe led to a turbulent life marred by drugs and crime.
Scott was found dead last month in a ditch among the trees lining University Parkway.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has ruled the death of the 29-year-old mother of three -- best known as Nikki -- as a homicide. No arrests have been made.
“Nikki’s death was exactly how she lived, and it’s terrible,” said Mike Harrison, Scott’s cousin and former foster parent.
Her friends say Scott tried to get help. She checked into several rehab centers, but never had the strength to complete any of them.
“It just never worked for her,” said Scott’s friend, Amy Scott. “She’d just end up back on the street.”
Nicole often visited Amy during her shift at a BP gas station in Sarasota. When a customer didn’t have enough money to pay, Nicole would chip in, her friend recalls.
“If she had $2 left in her pocket, she’d give it to them,” Amy said.
Two weeks before Nicole was found dead, she visited Amy at the gas station. She told her she had a new house on Potter Street and a new job. She told Amy, “I want to turn my life around.”
“She looked fairly good. She looked happy,” Amy said. “I’ve never heard her say that, ever.”
Born in Georgia
Nicole Scott’s life started as tough as it ended. She was born Nov. 25, 1982, in Atlanta, according to arrest reports. Her brother, Lonnie Scott, is 11 months older. In 1983, her father, Lonnie Nance, was in prison, Georgia prison records show. Nance said it was a theft conviction.
The children were adopted by a family in Venice when they were both 2, said Lonnie Scott. But that family would eventually return them both to foster care.
The Florida Department of Children and Families confirmed Nicole was in foster care but would give no other details about the number of homes.
Lonnie Scott, who is in the Sarasota County jail on convictions for dealing in stolen property, said that he and his sister were often abused while in foster homes. His sister was even sexually abused, he said during a phone interview.
When they were older, Lonnie said, he and Nicole lived with Harrison and his wife for about two years in Sarasota.
Harrison said Nicole was a bright girl who loved horses.
“Nikki was so smart she learned to manipulate situations,” he added.
As a child, she hated washing dishes.
When it became one of her chores, Harrison said Nicole would drop the dishes on the floor, pretending it was an accident.
In 1999, Lonnie Scott said he was in a juvenile detention center and his sister was still in foster care.
A string of crimes
Nicole Scott’s record is tainted with drug, prostitution and theft charges. In 2003, while pregnant, she was arrested for trying to cash stolen checks, an arrest report shows.
In 2008, she was arrested again after snatching a black leather folder containing $139 from a waitress at Gecko’s Grill and Bar in Sarasota. After a struggle between both women, the waitress recovered the cash. When deputies found Scott, she was “angry, not cooperative, and even attempted to spit on deputies standing near her,” an arrest report shows.
Scott was under the influence of drugs. She was found guilty and sentenced to six months in jail.
In 2009, she was arrested during an undercover officer investigation after she offered to perform a sexual act for $30.
There is a link between children who suffer abuse and then turn to drugs and crime as adults, said Dr. Kathleen M. Heide, criminology professor at University of South Florida.
“Individuals who have been abused do have a greater likelihood of being involved in delinquency or criminal activities as adults,” Heide said.
Because Scott was abused as a child, Heide said her drug habits are “not surprising.”
“It sounds like this woman really never had a break and that’s a really sad thing,” she said. “It just sounds tragic.”
Drugs ‘controlled’ her
Nance said he and his daughter reconnected about eight years ago. Together, the father and daughter traveled the country, including Virginia and Tennessee.
“She’d been in that town (Sarasota) all her life,” Nance said. “And the people she knew were worthless. ... She did have a drug issue. That controlled her life, really.”
Because of her lifestyle, Nicole Scott’s two sons, Clayton and Stefano, live with their father in Tennessee and her daughter, Madison, lives with a caregiver in Sarasota, Nance said. Nance was in Dade City when he found out about his daughter’s death.
But she tried to stay in her kids’ lives. Madison stayed with her during the weekend, Nance said. And last year, Enrica Bywaters, Lonnie’s mother-in-law, said Scott visited her sons.
A dream-catcher with her sons’ names was tattooed on her right arm.
“She always told me that she wished to be the one to make them happy and give them the life that they had right now,” said Amy Scott. “It always broke her heart that she didn’t give them that life.”
On Thursday, Dec. 8, Lonnie Scott said he called his sister. It would be the last time the siblings spoke.
“I got upset with her because she said she was going to start escorting,” he said. He called her the next two days, but never got an answer.
That Sunday, a motorcyclist found Scott’s partially clothed body north of where University Parkway ends, in an easement near The Concessions luxury home development.
Since his sister’s death, Lonnie said he “can’t even think straight.”
“My sister was like my mom and dad,” he said. “She was always there for me.”
The case is still under investigation. The sheriff’s office has received a few tips, but “not that one that pushes it over the edge,” sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
“We’re still working it hard and still hopeful that we’ll make an arrest, but it’s going to take some time,” Bristow said.
Scott’s family is still waiting for the medical examiner’s office to release her body.
“She was not a bad person,” Bywaters said. “She was lost in the system.”