Family, friends recall victims of tornado’s terror in Wynne

The Wynne High School campus is seen the day after it was hit by
a tornado on March 31, 2023.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
The Wynne High School campus is seen the day after it was hit by a tornado on March 31, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Aryana Williams was FaceTiming with her mother just before a tornado tore through Wynne on March 31.

"She was telling me how dark it was getting," said Melissa Pounds, Aryana's mother. "She was standing under that tree."

Aryana went inside -- then the tree fell, crushing the house. Williams, 21, and her boyfriend, Dee'Angelo Morrow, 22, died as a result.

Morrow was found on top of Williams.

"Dee was protecting her," said Pounds.

Williams and Morrow were two of the four people who died when an EF3 tornado devastated much of Wynne on March 31, 2023.

The same tornado took the life of Lakristen Altrice White, 30, when it hit her mobile home.

Her son, Azaveon Gillion, now 12, recalled the horrible event in a post last month in the guest book for his mother's online obituary.

"The tornado picked up our house and threw us out the window," wrote Gillion. "I couldn't walk because I broke my ankle so I crawled over to my mom and felt her pulse. She had a very strong pulse. I tried to wake her up. Then she started breathing as I felt the wind blow from her nose but she wouldn't wake up and then I passed out, and when I woke up I was lying in a hospital bed with a cast all the way up past my knee and a tube going through my mouth going to my left lung."

Evelynn Grayson, Gillion's grandmother, said he suffered a broken ankle, fractured vertebra in his neck, collapsed lung and head trauma. His sisters, DeMarie Gillion, 14, and Khyarie White, 3, also survived the storm.

"All three of them are doing just fine -- considering," said Grayson.

She said her daughter Lakristen tried to protect her children by huddling in the bathroom with a mattress on top of them.

"From what the kids said, it lifted the mobile home up in the air and it just started spinning," said Grayson. "All the windows were broken and somehow it just slung them out to the ground."

They all had their arms around each other in the bathroom. Azaveon was holding his little sister.

"When it threw them out, he was still holding onto that baby," said Grayson.

Lakristen Altrice White was born in Wynne, on April 13, 1992, according to her obituary.

Grayson said Lakristen graduated with honors from Wynne High School and earned an associate's degree in criminal justice. She was taking classes toward her bachelor's degree.

Sheryl Lynn Webster, 56, was the fourth victim of the tornado in Wynne, the coroner's office confirmed.

Sheryl's daughter, Antonette Webster, said it was getting dark outside her house, so everyone headed for the closets.

Webster's boyfriend and nephew were in one closet. Antonette and her four kids were in another closet.

"My mom was on her way down the hallway, but it hit before we were able to bring my mom and everybody in," she said.

"The windows started breaking, the house started shaking and everything was just gone.

"It lifted us up and into the air for a minute and then it dropped us. It was a good 30 seconds. At the moment, it felt like forever."

Afterward, at first, they couldn't find Antonette's mother.

"I was calling her name and you could hear her kind of knocking on the wood," said Antonette. "Trying to get me over there with her, but she couldn't respond. She told me where she was at. She actually waited until I got there to pass."

Sheryl Lynn Webster was born in Parkin on Aug. 18, 1966, according to her obituary.

Antonette said her mother was a caregiver who had a couple of patients. After back and hip surgeries, Sheryl slowed down, but she still enjoyed her role as the family chef.

The memories and sadness are still fresh in Wynne.

Antonette Webster said her kids still have nightmares, and they still hear their grandmother's voice.

"They still dream about the tornado," said Antonette. "They still have times when they cry."

Antonette said she and all four of her kids were injured during the storm.

As for Melissa Pounds, she now lives in Marion. She works as a cook at Save the Children Head Start in Patterson, about an hour's drive to the west.

Sometimes she stops in Wynne and leaves flowers at the site where her daughter died.

The rental house is gone now. It's just a vacant lot.

In December, on what would have been Aryana Williams' birthday, her mother left balloons there.

"She was full of joy, laughter," said Pounds. "Any time she came around or she leaves she'd let you know that she loved you. She just was a joyful person."

Pounds said her daughter graduated from Forrest City High School in 2020. She worked at the Bosch plant in West Memphis.

According to his obituary, Williams' boyfriend, Morrow, was a 2019 graduate of Forrest City High.

The couple had been together for about three years.

Pounds said Morrow asked her a year before the tornado if he could marry her daughter, and she gave him her blessing.

He bought a ring, but they hadn't gotten engaged. Pounds said she didn't know whether Morrow hadn't gotten around to asking or if her daughter had said no. But they were still together.

Dee'Angelo Z'Kurouse Morrow was born Sept. 20, 2000, in Hot Springs, according to his obituary.

He was employed at Hino Motors Manufacturing in Marion.

"Dee'Angelo had a special bond with his girlfriend Aryana Williams and he affectionately called her 'Baby' and the two continue to share their unbreakable bond in Heaven as their loved ones hold on to many memories," according to the obituary. "They both passed away in Wynne, Arkansas, March 31, 2023."

Aryana's brother, Undray Pounds, and his girlfriend were also in the house when the tornado hit. They survived and managed to climb over the tree to get out.

Melissa Pounds had rushed home from work that day.

Undray Pounds told her they couldn't find Ana and Dee, as Aryana and Dee'Angelo were known to friends and family.

"We were just climbing over stuff trying to yell for Ana and Dee," Melissa Pounds said.

But there was no response.

Besides the four tornado fatalities in Wynne, Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Q. Hobbs said a tornado caused the death of a North Little Rock man on March 31.

Matthew McClendon, 76, had several health issues, said Hobbs.

McClendon was seeking shelter in a bathtub. The tornado lifted the roof off his house, and part of the ceiling came down into the tub, Hobbs said.

He concluded that McClendon died from hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease due to a catastrophic event -- the tornado.

Lance Pyle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said McClendon's death was counted in their storm data as an indirect fatality from the tornado. Hobbs said he agreed with that assessment.

McClendon's obituary can be found at

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