Suspicions arise after Oakland mother's death on Hwy 13, family wants answers

For nearly two months, family members of an Oakland mother have searched for answers after she was hit by two cars and killed while walking on Highway 13 in Oakland.

They said it's hard for them to heal without knowing what happened, and have pledged to continue their search efforts.

They also suspect foul play, with loved ones saying they can't make sense of the mystery surrounding the death of Shamoni Downs, a mother of two daughters.

She was bubbly, always smiling and wanting to help people, said Isaac Joseph, the father of Downs' daughters. 

"It's been devastating to my family, her family for sure and my kids. Nobody really knows what happened to her," Joseph said.  

On July 30 at around 1:15 a.m., the California Highway Patrol said two vehicles hit a pedestrian that was later identified as Downs on Highway 13 northbound at Park Boulevard. 

The drivers were cooperative and remained on the scene. 

But family members said they suspect foul play, and that the coroner's office told them there were signs that Downs had been assaulted before being hit by cars.

Family says Downs' Mercedes-Benz was found nearby on the freeway under the overpass, and it appeared to be in running condition. They said she didn't drive at night and suspect the person she was with may have caused her to walk on the freeway.

"Everybody suspects foul play with her. Nobody thinks she can be on the freeway at 1 o'clock in the morning, walking on the freeway," Joseph said, adding that Downs was found with several hundred dollars on her. 

He said it was money she had planned to use to buy school clothes for their two daughters, ages 11 and 14.  She had worked part-time as a security guard

"Shamoni was the person that always took time out for people, especially myself.  I used to babysit her kids while she worked," said family friend Janie Howard.  

Family and friends planned to pass out flyers Saturday in areas where she was known to frequent to get answers. They're offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. .

Loved ones said Downs struggled with addiction issues and suspect someone she knew may have harmed her. 

The CHP said it is unable to release additional information at this time because this is an active investigation.

Joseph, the father of Downs' children, is heartbroken.

"Every day, I have to look at my kids," he said. "I cry every day, two to three times a day;  because of the death of my kids' mother, because they're going to have to grow up without a mother."

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU.  Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.