Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Donna Alexander dreamed of creating a safe space for people to release anger and stress, in the hopes of quelling violence and unnecessary pain.
She opened Anger Room in Dallas in 2008, allowing clients to smash household objects to blow off steam, and the business was featured in a September episode of “The Real Housewives of Dallas.”
But now Alexander is dead at age 36, allegedly at the hands of a former boyfriend. Nathaniel Mitchell — who had been in an on-and-off relationship with Alexander for years — has been charged with murder in connection with her Sept. 24 death, according to authorities. Mitchell, 34, is in custody at the jail in Tarrant County, Texas, in lieu of $250,000 bond, officials said.
Alexander’s sister, Lauren Armour of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, called the manner of death particularly tragic given Alexander’s life’s work.
“Donna’s thing was, instead of people hurting people, why not let it out on objects so a life isn’t lost, to keep people out of jail?” Armour said. “A therapeutic way to get the anger from inside of them and help to relieve stress.”
Mitchell had taken Alexander to the emergency room with severe injuries on Sept. 21 but “staff believed his story was inconsistent with her injuries,” according to a written statement by police in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Mitchell was first charged with aggravated assault, but the charge was upgraded to murder after Alexander died days later, according to police.
“No matter how much she tried to get away from it, he always ended up back in her life,” Armour said. “She was talented, creative, loved people and loved them hard. Despite how ugly a person might be, she loved them hard.”
Alexander grew up near the White Sox ballpark and attended Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, her sister said. She moved to the Dallas area as a young adult, and at first tested her business model by allowing friends and family to bash household items for $5 in her garage.
In an interview with the Tribune about her business just a few weeks before her death, Alexander said her inspiration for Anger Room came from growing up in Chicago and seeing people go to jail for behaviors like punching holes in a wall.
“We’re all born with anger,” Alexander told the Tribune. “I just figured it was an alternative, a way to get rid of anger.”
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In recent years, similar businesses have been popping up across the country. In 2017, Rage Room opened in the River North neighborhood, where patrons pay to hit television sets and old printers with baseball bats and crowbars, or smash dishes against a wall.
Before her death, Alexander was planning to expand to another location in Kentucky.
“I think it’s a primal instinct we have,” Alexander had told the Tribune. “Afterward, it’s like a weight has been lifted.”
Armour said Alexander loved raising her young son and daughter, and also helped make clothes for kids in need and donated food and hygiene products to the homeless.
Burial and funeral arrangements were pending, according to family members.