Beauty Pageant Finalist Pursuing Ph.D. Is Fatally Shot Outside Parents' Home, No Arrests Made

The sound of gunshots drew Adewale Sule outside, where the 24-year-old daughter he'd raised to be a beauty pageant finalist and aspiring Ph.D. student had just pulled up in her car to her parents' Philadelphia home after she'd slept at a friend's home.

"I saw the guy shooting my daughter," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He shot the last round and I pursued him. … He ran back to his car."

He told TV station WPVI: "He tried to turn back to me. I said, 'Okay don't let me lose my life.'"

As the suspect fled, Sule called 911. The police later told him his daughter was dead.

"I don't know what to do, where to start now," her father said.

Najeebat Sule, the second runner-up in the 2019 Miss Nigeria International contest, "carried herself with great dignity and grace and her strength of character and approachability made her such a joy to work with," pageant officials announced on their Facebook page.

"A bright shining light has been extinguished and life will never be the same," said the tribute.

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Police still have no suspects or motive in the March 12 shooting of the woman known to friends as "Najee," who'd recently earned her master's degree in public health at West Chester University and set her sights on following up with a doctorate.

"Our joke was that she was like a Nigerian princess," friend and former high school classmate Tamira DeSeignoria, 24, told the Inquirer. "Whatever Najee wanted, Najee got. When you walked in her room, it was pink everywhere. One week her sheets were diva print. Another week it was glitter. It was just a room that any feminine female would want. Her room was just like how her personality was."

Another friend, Habibat Magaji, also 24, at whose home Sule had spent the previous night after an evening of snacking and watching Netflix, told the newspaper: "I can't think of anything that would make anyone want to kill her."

Sule had moved from Nigeria to Philadelphia in the early 2000s, her sister told WPVI, and competed in the Miss Nigeria International pageant with a platform addressing sickle cell anemia. "She was very talented, smart, and funny," he sister said.

Citing concerns for their safety, the sister and an aunt asked that they not be identified.

"She's the beacon of our community. She's the rock for her sisters and her parents as young as she is," the aunt told the outlet. "You don't expect someone like her to fall victim."

The pageant organization tribute said: "She was extremely friendly and easygoing and it was so easy to fall in love with her great personality." With "outstanding presentations and responses, which were only matched by her brilliant smile (and) her effervescent personality," the tribute said, Sule "was destined to be a world-changer."

"Her departure came as a shock and a knife to the heart and has left us all reeling and wondering how such a beautiful young life could be cut short so soon."

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