Charlotte’s homicide rate hits two-decade high. Here are the victims’ stories.

Charlotte’s homicide rate hits two-decade high. Here are the victims’ stories.

CHARLOTTE, NC (Jane Wester, Adam Bell, Mark Price, Lavendrick Smith and Doug Miller/The Charlotte Observer) - More people were killed in Charlotte in 2017 than any year since 1995.

Police and community leaders are searching for ways to reduce the violence across the city. There were 87 homicides last year, compared with 69 in 2016 - that's a 26 percent rise.

In fact, 2017 was the city's seventh deadliest year. It was the first time so many lives have been lost since the crack cocaine epidemic of the early to mid 1990s, which largely accounted for Charlotte's highest homicide rates since record-keeping began in earnest in the 1970s.

The 2017 homicide victims have a median age of 29. Nearly 60 percent were black men. Nearly three-quarters were killed with a gun. And Charlotte's deadliest days were June 20 and Dec. 9, when three people were killed on the same day.

About a quarter of the 2017 victims were killed by a partner or close relative, police said. At the end of the year, city officials and community leaders announced plans for a center where victims of domestic violence could seek help in a safer and more efficient way, which has worked in other cities. But the center is at least three years away from opening.

The goal of another plan, called the Community Empowerment Initiative, is to make Charlotte safer and healthier by helping connect families to job-training services, addiction programs and other public and private resources. The initiative kicked off this fall in Hidden Valley, a neighborhood with a troubled history in northeast Charlotte, and will spread to Lakewood soon. City leaders have said they eventually want the program to reach every family in Charlotte, but that will take time.

Meanwhile, families of the 2017 homicide victims will continue to struggle with their loss. Victims were business owners, parents, veterans and students. Some were trying to get their lives back on track after getting involved with crime; some were just barely starting their lives. Nine victims so far were younger than 20.

The Observer aims to tell the stories of how these people lived, not just how they died.

To tell their stories, we need your help. If your friend or family member was killed in Charlotte this year, we hope you'll share their story with us so we can build on what's published here. Please call 704-358-5128 or email public safety reporter Jane Wester at

Last updated on Jan. 1.

Dec. 22 - Suprena Mercelle Hunter

Suprena Mercelle Hunter, 50, was killed by her husband early on a Friday morning in north Charlotte, police said.

Police said the husband, 51-year-old Maurice Dermot Hunter, shot his wife and attempted to shoot at least one other family member before killing himself in the family's home on Dapple Grey Lane.

Hunter sometimes went by the nickname Prena, according to friends' social media posts after she died.

Jane Wester

Dec. 14 - Antwain Maurice Price

Antwain Maurice Price was killed on his 39th birthday.

He was found with a gunshot wound at about 9:30 p.m. in northwest Charlotte.

Police reported that Price ran from the location where he was shot and collapsed in an open field. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

No one has been arrested in this case.

Jane Wester

Dec. 9 - Marina Bravo Aguilar

Marina Bravo Aguilar, 37, was a mother of three. She had lived in the United States for just over a year after moving from Mexico in fall 2016, her sister-in-law said.

Bravo Aguilar was killed alongside her mother-in-law on a Saturday morning in the east Charlotte apartment she shared with family. Police said her husband killed both women and injured their 11-year-old daughter before killing himself. Their other two children escaped the apartment and ran for help.

Bravo Aguilar was quiet, her sister-in-law said, and she didn't like to be photographed.

Her sister-in-law added that Bravo Aguilar hoped her life would improve when she moved to the United States.

Jane Wester

Dec. 9 - Asuncion Chacon-Perez

Asuncion Chacon-Perez, 62, was a mother and grandmother. She was visiting her son and his family in their east Charlotte apartment when she was killed.

Police said Chacon-Perez and her daughter-in-law were both killed by her son, who then killed himself. Her 11-year-old granddaughter was badly injured; two other grandchildren escaped.

Chacon-Perez was from Mexico, and family members raised money to send all three bodies to Mexico for burial.

Jane Wester

Dec. 9 - Khaled Mohamad Elmerkabaoui

Khaled Mohamad Elmerkabaoui, 55, died at work. He was a clerk at 7-Eleven on Westinghouse Boulevard working the overnight shift when he was shot and killed, police said.

Customers found Elmerkabaoui on the floor at about 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Elmerkabaoui was an immigrant from Lebanon, police said, and he was married. Police said he had worked as a clerk for more than 15 years and had been employed by 7-Elevens in Charlotte for about five years.

On Dec. 19, police arrested two men and charged them with murder in this case.

Jane Wester

Dec. 3 - Kenneth Bernard Edwards

Kenneth Bernard Edwards, 23, was shot on a Sunday night in a residential area of northwest Charlotte.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Edwards had a daughter, and he was a fan of the North Carolina Tar Heels, friends and family members said on Facebook.

He sometimes went by the nickname "Slim Slim," social media posts said.

No one has been arrested yet in this case.

Jane Wester

Nov. 20 - Jervais Wan Ya Cain

Jervais Wan Ya Cain, 19, started studying business administration at Central Piedmont Community College in August. He was killed before he could finish his first semester.

Police found Cain with a gunshot wound on Barton Creek Drive in the University City area on a Monday night, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cain was from Charlotte, CPCC officials said.

No one has been arrested yet in this case.

Jane Wester

Nov. 16 - Jay Jevon Phifer

Jay Jevon Phifer, 41, was shot near West Charlotte High School during the school day. Students were briefly placed on lockdown because of the gunshots nearby.

But the shooting wasn't connected to West Charlotte, police said. Phifer was pronounced dead at the scene on Kendall Drive in northwest Charlotte.

No one has been arrested yet in this case.

Jane Wester

Nov. 12 - Abraham Malik Wallace

Abraham Malik Wallace, 22, worked as a driver for a local towing company. He was a father of two.

Wallace was shot on a Sunday night on Waddell Street, near Oaklawn Cemetery north of uptown.

He was a graduate of Hopewell High School in Huntersville, according to his obituary.

Four people were arrested in connection with Wallace's death. Dequan Marquis Timmons, 21, Justen O'Neil Howard, 19, and Tyshoine McAfee, 20, were charged with murder and other crimes, and 20-year-old Emmanuel Kalani Tucker was charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

Jane Wester

Nov. 4 - Jaqual Malik Bennett

Charlotte's 77th homicide of the year was found early Saturday morning in the driveway of a southeast Charlotte home.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have identified the victim as Jaqual Malik Bennett, 18.

It happened in the 1800 block of Village Lake Drive at 3:40 a.m. Saturday, police said, and the victim pronounced dead at the scene by Medic. The site of the killing was between Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road, not far from Greenway Park Elementary.

More than a month after Bennett was killed, police charged Scott Bryan Penaloza, 16, with murder in this case.

Jane Wester

Oct. 24 – Preston Scott Coffey

Preston Scott Coffey, 44, was working at an east Charlotte business just after 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night when a man came in and shot him, police said. He died at the scene.

Coffey, who went by Scott, had three children and lived in Indian Trail, according to his obituary.

In addition to spending time with his children and other family members, he enjoyed mixing music and exercising, the obituary said. He called himself a "jack of all trades."

He graduated from East Burke High School in Connelly Springs in 1992, according to posts on social media.

At the quiet complex of low-slung brick buildings where Coffey worked, employees of neighboring businesses said they had exchanged waves and hellos with Coffey, but they didn't know him well.

No one has been arrested yet in this case.

Jane Wester

Oct. 24 – Kwame Deese

Kwame Deese, 27, was stabbed during an argument outside an apartment complex in west Charlotte, across from Tuckaseegee Park.

Deese was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where he died.

Police said the person who stabbed Deese ran away, but within hours of his death, Johnny Bee Boyd, 25, was arrested and charged with murder.

Jane Wester

Oct. 19 – Natalie Nicholle Merrick

A missing-person report for Natalie Nicholle Merrick, 23, was filed in Charlotte one day after the body of an unknown woman was found across the border in South Carolina.

Eventually, investigators matched up a description of Merrick's tattoos to confirm her identity.

Her body was left on the side of Dobys Bridge Road in Fort Mill on Oct. 19, but police believe she was killed in Charlotte. Her injuries were consistent with strangulation, police said.

She was pregnant with her second child.

On Oct. 25, Mahmood Amjad Bhatti, 28, was arrested and charged with murder and murder of an unborn child. Police said Merrick and Bhatti were in a long-term relationship and had a child in common.

Jane Wester

Oct. 16 – Willie Baker

Willie Baker, 53, was shot on Baltimore Avenue, which is south of uptown and near Marie G. Davis Middle School, on Oct. 9.

He survived for one week in the hospital before dying of his injuries on Oct. 16.

Baker enjoyed gardening, according to posts from friends and family on social media, and he studied horticulture at community college.

Photos posted while he was in the hospital showed him cooking, playing football as a young man and climbing Mount Mitchell.

Police arrested John Jeter, 60, at the scene on Oct. 9 and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon. After Baker died, Jeter was also charged with murder.

Jane Wester

Oct. 12 – Detavious Springs

Detavious Springs, 24, was shot on a Thursday afternoon in a west Charlotte neighborhood. He was taken to the hospital, but he died during surgery.

Springs sometimes went by the nickname "TaeTae," according to social media posts.

He was a father, with a beard and a big smile.

No one has been arrested yet in this case.

Jane Wester

Oct. 8 – Keith Ify Nmoma

Keith Ify Nmoma, 35, was shot outside his apartment building in east Charlotte on a Sunday night.

He was a Charlotte native, graduating from Butler High School before heading to Raleigh to earn his B.S. degree in biology from N.C. State University.

His parents were Nigerian immigrants, and they were serious about education for their sons, the family said in the week after Nmoma's death.

His older brother Alex Nmoma said Keith was a serious, quiet man. He was committed to improving himself and caring for others, especially his younger brother, who had medical issues.

"We are heartbroken," Alex said. "We're lost right now."

No one has been arrested yet in this case.

Jane Wester

Oct. 8 – Larry Doral Watson, Jr.

Larry Doral Watson, Jr., 29, was found with a gunshot wound early on a Sunday morning in north Charlotte. He died at the scene on Trinity Road, near Hornets Nest Park.

Watson grew up in Charlotte and graduated from West Mecklenburg High School in 2006, according to his obituary.

He had one son, his obituary said, and he enjoyed spending time with the rest of his family, too.

He worked for a landscaping company in Charlotte, and outside of work he liked to cook, his obituary said.

No one has been arrested yet in this case.

Jane Wester

Oct. 2 - Trenton Malik Stevenson

Trenton Malik Stevenson, 21, was shot in the parking lot of a Church's Chicken restaurant on West Trade Street at about 12:45 p.m. on a Monday.

He was declared dead shortly after arriving at the hospital, police said.

Stevenson was a father, according to posts on Facebook after his death.

Police said officers located Raheem Amontae House, 18, near the scene of the shooting. House was charged with murder the day Stevenson died.

Jane Wester

Sept. 30 - Annie Nicholson

Annie Nicholson, 60, was found with a gunshot wound on a Saturday morning in east Charlotte. She died at the hospital later the same day.

Nicholson was shot on the 400 block of Orange Street, which is off Monroe Road in east Charlotte.

Her daughter Nakonia Nicholson, 36, was quickly charged with voluntary manslaughter in connection with her mother's death.

Jane Wester

Sept. 29 – Ashanti Billie

Ashanti Billie, 19, went missing in Virginia nearly two weeks before her body was found behind a church in north Charlotte.

She was a student at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, where she studied culinary arts, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

Billie worked at a Blimpie sandwich shop on a navy base in Norfolk, Va., but she never showed up for work the day she disappeared.

Her phone and her car were both found abandoned near the navy base, and it's not clear how she ended up in North Carolina.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that Billie had just moved to Virginia Beach for school in August, and she was living with three roommates.

The night before she was last seen, she called her mother from the grocery store, saying that she was picking up ingredients for fish tacos.

Her mother and father are both in the Army, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

A 21-year Navy veteran and Charlotte native was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder in this case. Eric Brown, 45, stalked Billie online before abducting her, the FBI said.

Jane Wester

Sept. 20 - William Jerome Rann Jr.

William Jerome Rann Jr., 29, was shot on a Wednesday night on Dogwood Avenue, north of uptown. He died at the scene.

Rann loved his family and football, his father William Rann Sr. said.

He graduated from West Charlotte High School, where he was on the football team, and then he played one year of college ball at Winston-Salem State University, his father said.

Police found Michael Norman Smith, 29, at the scene and charged him with murder after interviewing him. Police said Rann and Smith may be related, though they did not provide further details.

The original 911 call involved a report of a domestic disturbance, police said.

Jane Wester

Sept. 18 - Michael Clinton Mills Jr.

The body of Michael Clinton Mills Jr., 21, was found in the woods behind a home on Medford Drive in east Charlotte on Sept. 18.

Mills was found by a neighbor, who called 911, police said. Police did not immediately identify Mills or declare the case a homicide because his body had been in the woods for several days.

After the medical examiner confirmed that Mills had been shot, the case was declared a homicide. No one has been arrested in this case.

Mills' mother Paula Martin said her son loved football and music, and he would do anything for his siblings – a brother and three sisters.

He had gotten into some trouble in his teen years, she said, but he was straightening things out before he was killed.

Jane Wester and Adam Bell

Sept. 12 - Derricka Banner

Derricka Banner, 26, was found with a gunshot wound in a car on Rosetta Street, in a neighborhood behind Northwest School of the Arts in north Charlotte.

Banner was declared dead at the scene after police arrived, just after 3 a.m. on Sept. 12, as rain and wind from Hurricane Irma hit Charlotte.

At about 11 p.m. on Sept. 12, police arrested Montavious Sanchez Berry, 18, and charged him with murder, armed robbery and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Police said Berry and Banner had communicated previously.

Friends said Banner was a transgender woman. Police were communicating with the FBI about the shooting but did not comment on whether it was a hate crime. North Carolina's hate crime statute does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, but the federal government could bring charges.

The North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said Banner was at least the 21st transgender person killed in the U.S. this year. QNotes, a news site serving the Carolinas' LGBT community, said that most victims have been people of color.

Jane Wester

Sept. 2 - Joseph Bellamy

Joseph Bellamy, 38, was found by emergency responders on the 900 block of North College Street in the early afternoon of Sept. 2.

He was declared dead at the scene with "unknown trauma," on his body, police said. His death was ruled a homicide three days later.

Bellamy was homeless and found in a field near the Urban Ministry Center, Observer news partner WTBV said, citing law enforcement sources.

No one has been arrested in this case.

Jane Wester

Sept. 1 - Jeannine Shante Skinner

Jeannine Shante Skinner, 35, was an assistant professor of gerontology and psychology in UNC Charlotte's Department of Psychological Science, UNCC officials said.

She was found dead in an apartment in the Ayrsley community, in southwest Charlotte, after police responded to a welfare check on Sept. 1. Police arrested Donny Lewis Franklin, 45, on Sept. 4 and charged him with murder. Police say the homicide may be connected to domestic violence, and court records show Franklin has a history of assault arrests dating back in 1996 in North Carolina and Virginia.

Skinner began working at UNCC two years ago and was admired for her dedication to teaching and her research, which focused on cognitive aging.

Anita Blanchard, Skinner's friend and colleague in the psychological sciences department, said Skinner was working to start a program to research how walking could prevent cognitive decline for older adults.

"She was so important and had so much to give to Charlotte, and to the university, the students, to older people, to everybody," Blanchard said.

Skinner received a PhD from Howard University in 2010 and studied at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She was a research instructor at Vanderbilt University's medical center from 2013 to 2014 and also taught at Belmont University and Fisk University in Nashville, a UNCC spokeswoman said. Skinner was a St. Petersburg, Fla., native, according to her Facebook page.

Eric Heggestad, interim chair of the department of psychological science, said Skinner constantly looked for ways to improve her teaching, though he said she was already great at it.

"One of our other colleagues called her a rising star in the academic world, and I think that's absolutely right on," he said. "She was going places as a professor in terms of researching and teaching."

Skinner was admired outside of the classroom too, Heggestad said, noting her kindness and empathy for others.

"She was just such a wonderful, bright light in this world," he said. "She will definitely be missed here."

LaVendrick Smith and Jane Wester

Aug. 30 - Alvara Lisandro Morales

Alvara Lisandro Morales, 31, was found dead in the front yard of a home on the 4000 block of Uppergate Lane in east Charlotte on Aug. 30.

He was visiting people at the home when he was shot multiple times, police said.

No one has been arrested in this case.

Jane Wester

Aug. 24 - De'Monte RaShawn Perkins

De'Monte RaShawn Perkins, 22, was shot to death in the 5400 block of Windy Valley Drive, off Rozzelles Ferry Road, on the afternoon of Aug. 24.

Shortly after Perkins died, police arrested 23-year-old Jacob Levone Walker and charged him with several offenses including murder, but authorities spent more than a month searching for another suspect – Darius Jordan Perry, 19.

Perry was arrested in DeKalb County, Ga., on Sept. 28. He was charged with murder.

Jane Wester

Aug. 23 - Joshua Schulman

Joshua Schulman, 25, was injured alongside his father during an attempted robbery at their home off Providence Road on Aug. 21.

Schulman died of his injuries two days later. His father Larry Schulman survived and has given police some information about what happened during the robbery, but police have yet to make an arrest.

Joshua Schulman graduated in 2010 from Charlotte Latin School and played three high school sports, according to his obituary. He attended the University of Alabama, where he joined a fraternity, the obituary said.

His obituary said he loved football and animals, especially dogs.

Police are still investigating the robbery at the Schulmans' house, which was unusually violent, one officer said.

Jane Wester

Aug. 11 - Joshua Anthoni Burris

Joshua Anthoni Burris, 23, was shot alongside an unnamed woman during a carjacking in northeast Charlotte, WBTV reported.

He died at Carolinas Medical Center on Aug. 11. The woman survived her injuries.

Burris had a 3-year-old daughter, according to family members' Facebook posts.

No one has been arrested in this case.

Jane Wester

Aug. 10 - Jamario Lacatria McNeely

Jamario Lacatria McNeely, 23, was shot in west Charlotte on Aug. 10 and died at the scene.

George Fernandez, 27, was found by police close to where McNeely died, and after police interviewed Fernandez, they charged him with murder.

Police said McNeely and Fernandez knew each other.

Family members' posts on McNeely's Facebook page indicate that he had a young son.

Jane Wester

Aug. 8 - Kyyri De Ji Marquis Doggette

Kyyri De Ji Marquis Doggette, 25, was found dead in a vehicle along the Monroe Road-Independence Boulevard corridor – the second man in less than a week to die there, and the sixth homicide victim in that corridor in 2017.

He was found with gunshot wounds, police said. WBTV reported that police said the shooting did not appear to be random.

No arrests have been announced in this case.

Jane Wester

Aug. 3 - Raymond James Johnson III

Raymond James Johnson III, 43, was found dead in a vehicle near Ovens Auditorium, on a road that connects Monroe Road and Independence Boulevard.

Johnson was a pawn shop manager, WBTV reported, and he closed up for the night just before the shooting.

WBTV cited surveillance video in reporting that a white van pulled into the parking lot just before the shooting and then sped away as Johnson's vehicle crashed into a pole.

The white van was found by police, WBTV reported, but CMPD has announced no arrests in this case.

Jane Wester

July 27 - Rufus Gordon and Jacquline Gordon-White

Jacquline Gordon-White, 65, was found dead in a north Charlotte home on July 27, and her husband Rufus Gordon, 69, was found dead in the trunk of a car the same day.

Their son-in-law, Vurnel Smith Jr., 40, surrendered to police after a five-day manhunt and was charged with two counts of murder and a variety of other offenses.

Citing warrants, WBTV reported that the couple died on July 25.

The couple's daughter was held captive by Smith for days, a police source told WBTV. She escaped on the morning of July 27 and drove to the hospital. The car she took to the hospital was where Rufus Gordon's body was found, police said.

The couple's funerals were in Trenton, N.J., according to their obituaries.

Jane Wester

July 26 - Dionte' Hunter

Dionte' Hunter, 17, was shot at about 11:15 p.m. on July 24 while driving a car. He died at Carolinas Medical Center two days later.

Police said he was on his way to meet someone and had a female passenger in the car when someone shot at them, striking Hunter. The passenger was not hurt.

Steven Black, 20, was arrested on July 26 and charged with murder in this case.

Hunter, who had four brothers and sisters, also enjoyed playing basketball, according to online condolences.

Jane Wester and Adam Bell

July 7 - Heidi May Morton

Heidi May Morton, 35, died in her west Charlotte home on July 7. She was a stay-at-home mom with a 2-year-old daughter, her obituary said.

Her husband, Alton Ulysses Morton Jr., also 35, was charged with her murder on July 19. Police did not announce how she died.

Morton's death was the city's 50th homicide of 2017.

Jane Wester

July 3 - Harold Rudolph Jones Jr.

Harold Rudolph Jones, 63, was shot and killed the night of July 3 in the University area. Police found him in the 10600 block of Atkins Ridge Drive shortly before 8 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police had initially thought Jones' death may have been a suicide, but further investigation led police to open a homicide investigation.

In online condolences, Jones was recalled for his "warm, loving energy."

On July 4, police charged Daryl Roby, 22, in Jones' death. The two were believed to be related and were involved in an altercation when the shooting happened, WBTV, the Observer's news partner, reported.

LaVendrick Smith and Adam Bell

July 2 - Tommy Jarad Maddox

Tommy Jarad Maddox, 24, was shot in front of an apartment building in east Charlotte, just before noon on a Sunday.

He was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center the same day.

Kristian Nicole Weddington, 23, was charged with murder and shooting into occupied property on Aug. 2, but police said they believe more suspects were involved in this case.

Jane Wester

June 24 - Nelson Bismar Sosa

Nelson Sosa, 41, owned the Tropical Bar & Restaurant on Tuckaseegee Road, police warrants show, and that's where he spent his last moments before being shot.

He was found with a gunshot wound inside the bar just before 11 p.m. on a Saturday night. He was later pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center.

Police believe Sosa was acquainted with his killer, but no arrests have been made and no suspects have been named.

Jane Wester

June 20 - Sanchez McClure and Jared Chatman

Sanchez McClure, 30, and Jared Chatman, 29, were killed at an apartment complex near NoDa just before midnight on June 20.

One of them was found in a stairwell and the other was nearby inside an apartment. They were both declared dead at the scene.

Police believe the shootings were drug related. No suspects have been arrested.

Chatman attended Johnson C. Smith University, according to his Facebook page.

Jane Wester

June 20 - David Lindsay

David Lindsay was found shot to death in an SUV in east Charlotte on June 20. He would have turned 30 on July 1.

Along with his colleagues at No Grease Barber Shop, Lindsay was committed to making a positive impact in his community.

He mentored kids, who gravitated toward his youthfulness, Gene Winchester of the N.C. Local Barber Association said.

He cut hair for homeless people, which was just another way to share his talent, No Grease co-owner Damian Johnson said.

His family and friends said they were mystified by his death.

No Grease said on Facebook that it would start a scholarship in Lindsay's memory for aspiring barbers.

No one has been arrested in the case.

Jane Wester

June 18 - Zachary Finch

Zachary Finch, 21, was killed in the early afternoon on June 18 while trying to complete an online sale in person in west Charlotte.

Finch was devoted to his baseball team at Kentucky's University of the Cumberlands, where he pitched on a full scholarship. He was studying public health and would have graduated in 2018.

His older brother Nicholas said Finch was loving and bubbly – someone who could motivate everyone around him.

Their parents moved to the Charlotte area from south Florida a couple of years ago, and the family was weeks away from reuniting for the Fourth of July when Finch died.

After Finch died, police emphasized the importance of safety when meeting to exchange goods after an online sale. Police said Finch was engaged in a legal activity when he died.

A little more than a month after Finch was killed, police arrested two 15-year-old boys and charged them with murder. Their names were not released due to their ages. In October, police also charged 17-year-old Demonte McCain with murder in this case.

Jane Wester

June 15 - Cornelius Drayton

Cornelius Drayton was shot and later died from his gunshot wounds. The shooting happened in Charlotte on June 9 when Drayton, 37, was in a car with two other people that met another group at an Exxon gas station in west Charlotte for a drug deal, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said. When the two groups met, an altercation started and the two sides began shooting at each other.

The groups then headed toward Interstate 85, where one car got in a wreck and drove off. Drayton was shot during the incident. The car Drayton was in drove to Gaston County, where he was later taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. He died from his injuries on June 15.

Police charged 24-year-old Lex Chisholm, of Chester, in Drayton's murder. Chisholm faces a murder charge and a charge of armed robbery with a deadly weapon.

Drayton was a former Simpsonville, S.C., resident who was remembered in online condolences for his bright smile, respectful nature and being "a breath of fresh air."

LaVendrick Smith and Adam Bell

June 12 - Cornell Lamarche Bridges

Police found Cornell Lamarche Bridges, 32, in a wrecked car on June 12 and dead from a gunshot wound. The car was found crashed into a power pole in west Charlotte in the 300 block of North Hoskins Road around 7 p.m.

Bridges was the city's 41st homicide of the year. Police were initially called to the 4500 block of Hovis Road for the report of shots fired, and received more calls while at the scene of someone being shot in a car on North Hoskins Road. That victim was later identified as Bridges.

LaVendrick Smith

June 8 - A'dan Blackmon

A'dan Blackmon was 2 years old.

A GoFundMe set up after his death described A'dan as "the sun that came after any storm."

A'dan arrived at Carolinas Medical Center on June 7 with a traumatic brain injury and other injuries. He couldn't breathe on his own.

His mother's boyfriend, 25-year-old Christopher Sims, was charged with felony child abuse after investigators determined he had been alone with A'dan. After the toddler died the next day, Sims was charged with murder.

A'dan's mother and other relatives attended Sims' first court appearance and said they supported him. Sims has never been convicted of a crime in North Carolina, records show.

A'dan had come to the hospital two months before with injuries that medical personnel found suspicious, but an exam to determine whether he'd been abused came back negative.

Jane Wester

June 5 - William Weddington

William Weddington, 24, was shot on June 5 during what police described as a domestic dispute at a north Charlotte home. He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Maurice Grant, 63, was charged with Weddington's murder.

Weddington's cousin, Mario Black, is a leader of the Million Youth March of Charlotte. Although he had been working on community issues including gun violence for years, Black said losing a family member made him understand the issue in a new way.

He said he was grateful for the way people had reached out and supported his family in the days after Weddington's death.

Jane Wester

June 4 - Lucas Lorenzo Baldwin

Lucas Lorenzo Baldwin, 34, was killed in a Sunday afternoon shooting in north Charlotte on June 4. He was declared dead at the scene at Tanglewood Apartments.

Baldwin was a father of four, his uncle Charles Moore told WBTV. Moore said Baldwin was working on getting his life "back on track" when he died.

Two days after the shooting, police publicly identified a suspect and issued warrants for his arrest. The next day, 42-year-old William Medlin turned himself in. He's charged with murder and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Detectives believe Medlin dated Baldwin's sister, according to court documents.

Jane Wester

June 3 - Archie McGill

Archie McGill, 47, was burned on May 21 in her south Charlotte home. She died at a Winston-Salem hospital two weeks later.

On June 8, her husband Gary James McGill, 51, was charged with murder after the Forsyth County Medical Examiner's office determined she died from her injuries in the May 21 assault.

Police had previously charged Gary James McGill with attempted murder, malicious use of incendiary device, burning personal property and carelessness with fire.

Archie McGill studied at Central Piedmont Community College, according to her Facebook page. In online condolences, she was described as a loving, outgoing woman with a beautiful laugh.

Jane Wester and Adam Bell

May 29 - Daveon Andrews

Daveon Andrews, 18, was shot and killed on Memorial Day at the intersection of Rozzelles Ferry Road and Oregon Street.

Larry Darnell McVay Jr., 19, was arrested on June 27 and charged with murder in the case.

Another man was shot at the same place and time as Andrews, police said. The second man, who wasn't identified, was found in a convenience store a block away with a non-life threatening gunshot wound to his leg.

Andrews' uncle, Shelton Morris, said at a vigil that Andrews wasn't perfect, but if he had had time, he was going to make things right.

Morris said Andrews and his cousins – Morris' sons – grew up together, and Andrews would be deeply missed.

Jane Wester

May 29 - Bobby Edward Wesley Jr.

During a violent Memorial Day weekend, 23-year-old Bobby Edward Wesley Jr. was found dead in a north Charlotte motel room early Monday. He had been shot.

Wesley was from Salisbury and was devoted to his family, including his four children, his obituary said.

A 16-year-old was also assaulted in the incident at the Travel Inn, police said. He had minor injuries.

Jane Wester

May 27 - Anderson David Biggers

Anderson David Biggers, 22, was found dead in a shopping center parking lot in north Charlotte. The shooting happened late Saturday night during Memorial Day weekend.

Biggers grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Vance High School, according to his obituary. He attended Central Piedmont Community College and worked as a carpenter, and he was also involved in his church, his obituary said.

Police believe the shooting was connected with the sale of marijuana, WBTV reported. Police issued a search warrant in June but haven't announced an arrest in the case.

Jane Wester

May 26 - Julian Ray Williams

Julian Ray Williams, 35, was found dead in an uptown apartment on a Friday night at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend.

First responders had to force their way into the unit at the Presley Apartments at 900 East Stonewall St. WBTV reported that a search warrant said Williams' hands were tied behind his back with extension cords.

The next day, police charged Andre Amir Young-Johnson, 20, with first-degree murder, armed robbery and kidnapping.

Jane Wester

May 20 - Marlo Johnis Medina-Chevez

Marlo Johnis Medina-Chevez, 44, disappeared after leaving home to pick up an Uber passenger on a Saturday night. His body was found five days later in a Rock Hill field.

His wife, Elsa Urbina, told the Spanish-language newspaper Hola Noticias that her husband started working for Uber in December to raise money for a family vacation. He also worked full-time for a company making windows and doors, she said.

Medina-Chevez was a devout Jehovah's Witness originally from Honduras. He and his wife started dating in middle school and had been married for more than 20 years, she said.

Right before he died, Medina-Chevez had found out he was going to be a grandfather, family friends said. He was a father of three.

When Medina-Chevez was found, his hands and feet were bound with duct tape, WBTV reported. His credit card and car were used by his abductors, police said.

Two men were arrested in the case on May 23 in Maryland. Diontray Divan Adams, 24, and James Aaron Stevens, 20, were charged with a variety of offenses, including murder, first-degree kidnapping and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Jane Wester

May 15 - Keith Lawrence Ross

Keith Lawrence Ross, 30, was found inside a north Charlotte residence with a gunshot wound. Medic declared him dead at the scene.

Police said he was probably shot outside the residence and then went inside.

No arrests have been made in the case.

Jane Wester

May 3 - Tiara Clark

Tiara Clark, 29, had recently moved to Charlotte. She was from Rocky Mount, and her Facebook page indicates she worked in the healthcare industry.

Clark was killed May 3 in an apparent murder-suicide at a southeast Charlotte apartment.

Byron Howington, 31, also died; police believe they were in a relationship and shared the apartment.

Jane Wester

April 26 - Michael Anthony Barnwell

Barnwell, 29, was shot and killed on a Wednesday afternoon in northwest Charlotte, on the 4200 block of Welling Avenue. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His aunt, Robin Alexander, told WBTV that her son found Barnwell's body after going to check on him. He had been shot in the chest, police said.

Barnwell had children of his own, family members told WBTV.

Jane Wester

April 10 - Marcella Lightner Thrash

Marcella Thrash retired as a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, her obituary said.

She worked in accounting for a commercial real estate firm in Charlotte and held an MBA degree.

Thrash, 50, died near her house in University City on April 10. Police responded after a neighbor called and said a woman had been stabbed in her garage. The altercation may have then continued into the driveway.

Her son Dionte Long, 27, was arrested and charged with murder.

Thrash's obituary said she was a mental health advocate, actively involved with the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The obituary called her a "gladiator" for good causes.

Jane Wester

April 5 - Kevin Ruben Marquez

Kevin Ruben Marquez, 19, was shot in north Charlotte April 5. Police responded to a call at 8:13 p.m. for an assault with a deadly weapon, and they found Marquez with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police told WBTV that Marquez may have lived in the apartment community where he died.

Police haven't made any arrests in this case yet. In July, they put out a call for a silver SUV connected to the case.

Jane Wester

April 5 - Jennifer Renee Smith

Jennifer Renee Smith was friendly with her neighbors in Steele Creek, even giving Gummy Bears to kids who lived nearby, one neighbor said.

Smith, 34, was found dead in a Steele Creek home on April 5. Police didn't say how she died, but Leroy Anthony Cooper III, 41, was arrested days later in Greensboro and charged with murder. Police believe Smith and Cooper were in a relationship.

According to her Facebook page, Smith graduated from N.C. A&T State University with a degree in psychology in 2006. She graduated from Enloe High School in Raleigh in 2001, the Wake County Public School System confirmed to WRAL.

Jane Wester

April 2 - Curtis and Ruby Atkinson

The double murder and kidnapping of Charlotte couple Curtis and Ruby Atkinson evolved on a Sunday in Charlotte and led to a nationwide search for their kidnapped granddaughter, 11-year-old Arieyana Simone Forney. The couple was found dead at 11:05 a.m. on Sunday, April 2, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg police were called to assist the Charlotte Fire Department with a house fire in the 7500 block of Glencannon Drive.

Friends of her slain grandparents, Curtis and Ruby Atkinson, say the couple took in the girl after her father, Micah Atkinson, was murdered in 2013 in Charlotte. He was the dead couple's son, and he is the brother of the man charged in the killing of Curtis, 63, and Ruby Atkinson, 62.

The suspect, 36-year-old Curtis Atkinson Jr., was caught the same day as the killing, in Washington D.C., during a chase that ended in a crash. Arieyana was found in the car, safe.

Friends of Curtis and Ruby Atkinson described them as "good people" who cared for disabled friends in nearby homes and visited ailing neighbors when they were in the hospital. The couple doted over Arieyana and took care of her every need, friends say.

"When Arieyana got into volleyball, Curtis (Sr.) put a volleyball court in the front yard and had all the kids in the neighborhood come over and play," said one neighbor. "And when she got into basketball, he put up a basketball goal on the driveway. Whatever she wanted, he was there to make sure she survived and thrived beyond the death of her father. They were wonderful grandparents."

Mark Price

April 1 - Jarel D'Shaun Grace

The killing of 25-year-old Jarel D'Shaun Grace on Saturday, April 1, happened during one of Charlotte's most violent days of the year. He was one of three people shot during an altercation in 4100 block of Colebrook Road.

However, it took police hours to connect the three shootings, after the victims took off in different directions.

Grace was the first to be found, lying in the yard of a home. Twenty minutes later, police got a call to 4000 block of Briarhill Drive about another man shot. The third victim was discovered when he went to a hospital for treatment, police said.

Police initially thought there had been some type of disagreement among the men, leading to the shooting took place. Later, investigators said the three were shot during a robbery.

Grace, who reportedly had a daughter, was the only one to die of his wounds.

Two people have been charged with murder and robbery in his death: James Russell Andrews, 23, and Shenika Yvonne James, 35.

Mark Price

March 28 - Laymon A. Moore

Laymon Antonio "Deez" Moore, 29, was fatally shot on March 28 in the 1900 block of Catherine Simmons Avenue in north Charlotte.

Investigators say he was walking on Catherine Simmons Avenue when a vehicle pulled up beside him. There was an argument with the people inside the vehicle that escalated and then someone pulled out a gun and shot him. The vehicle then left.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have yet to announce an arrest in the case.

Police found Moore lying close to the street. Children were reportedly nearby when he was shot, too.

Mark Price

March 24 - Michael Xavier Morris

Michael Xavier Morris, 28, died in what police say became a trend as the year's killings played out: Acquaintances killing acquaintances.

He was killed in an apartment on Prospect Drive, near West Sugar Creek Road, shortly after 2 a.m. on March 24.

Witnesses said there had been an argument in the parking lot earlier in the evening, though police have never said if the fight was related to the shooting. Later, someone knocked on the door of the apartment and fired one shot, killing Morris.

He was reportedly in the apartment with his fiance and her three children at the time of the incident. One of the children, a teen, was reportedly injured, but not seriously.

Police have yet to announce an arrest in the case.

Mark Price

March 22 - Tyshaud Nikese Brown

The death of 18-year-old Tyshaud Nikese Brown had Charlotteans holding their breath on the afternoon of March 22, after news spread that the body of a youth had been found near a baseball field behind one of the city's elementary schools.

Parents learned later that day that the victim was a teenager. He was not a student at Allenbrook Elementary School where he was found.

Police were initially called just to check on the welfare of someone lying near the baseball field. They arrived to find Brown dead of a gunshot wound. Sensing concern in the community, police put out a statement noting: "At this time, detectives believe that this incident is not related to any of the students or staff from the school."

A 15-year-old boy was arrested the next week and charged with accessory after the fact.

Brown was a native of Craven County, the son of Adrienne Harris and Elbert Lee Brown.

His mother told Charlotte TV station WBTV that he was known as "Pop pop" to the women in his family, because he had a way of bouncing from one place to the next. "He was always everywhere and when I say everywhere he was trying to help everybody. He wanted to be over in this conversation and he wanted to be in that conversation."

He loved football and idolized Carolinas Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, even to the point of attending Newton's 7-on-7 camp, family members said.

After the family moved to Charlotte, his mother took him to Bank of America Stadium, and she could tell he was impressed: "He was like: 'I'm going to be there, one day, with Cam Newton'."

Mark Price

March 21 - Carson David Christian Jr.

Albemarle native Carson David Christian Jr., 30, died of a gunshot wound shortly on March 21.

He was the 19th homicide of the year, and it happened at the Hampton Crest apartment community on North Wendover Road, south of Monroe Road. It is an area of east Charlotte known largely for hosting the headquarters of Charlotte's Habitat for Humanity and ReStore.

Neighbors said they heard up to 10 gunshots in the minutes before Christian was found lying next to a car in the parking lot. He died at the scene.

Days later, his family brought him back to Albemarle to be buried.

Three days later the shooting, Treymaine Delmar Johnson, 23, was charged in his death. Johnson had been arrested four previous times in Mecklenburg County, including multiple drug charges, assaulting a government employee, and multiple charges of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling.

He remains in the Mecklenburg County jail.

Mark Price

March 15 - Deandre Terrell Olson and Yesenia McMillion

Deandre Terrell Olson and Yesenia McMillion were killed on the morning of March 15 in the 4500 block of Biesterfield Drive in north Charlotte. The two were stabbed by McMillion's ex-boyfriend, Corey Shirly, police said.

Shirly showed up to the home, where McMillion and Olson were around 1 a.m. Police said Olson ran to a neighbor's house around that time seeking help because he had been stabbed.

Police found him in a driveway when they arrived, and he died at Carolinas Medical Center. McMillion was found in the home and pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said Shirly called them a few minutes after the stabbing from an Exxon Station on Glenwood Drive and admitted to killing two people. He was arrested and charged with two counts of murder. He also had two pending charges at the time of his arrest, including a charge for assaulting a woman in January.

LaVendrick Smith

March 14 - Germany Joaquin Byers

Authorities were called to LaSalle Street and Beatties Ford Road where they conducted a homicide investigation for Germany Joaquin Byers, 37, who is a father of three who worked at Goodwill.

During their investigation, police have arrested three suspects in Byers' death.

Kyerra Channing Michelle Guinn, 22, Johnquan Edward Rowell, 25, and Joseph Bradley Jones, 26, were arrested. They've all been charged with murder.

LaVendrick Smith

Feb. 24 - Bryan Ja'Quan Thompson

Bryan Ja'Quan Thompson was the victim of a triple shooting that occurred in southwest Charlotte on February 24.

The shooting happened in the 2400 block of Yorkdale Drive, off South Tryon Street in the Olde Whitehall neighborhood.

Thompson, 22, was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center. Two other people were taken to CMC, but survived their injuries.

Robert Wilson Driver, 27, was arrested for Thompson's death a few weeks later.

LaVendrick Smith

Feb. 22 - David Brannon

David Brannon, 46, was neat, kind and generous, recalls his niece Nikki Brannon.

When he worked at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, she said, he would send money back home to family members in Spartanburg, S.C.

"He would give you anything you wanted," she says. "He was real humble."

On the night he was killed, Nikki Brannon said she spoke to her uncle. He had been in Charlotte for about a week to look for work after spending the past year in Spartanburg following his mother's death, she said.

He told her he was heading to a get-together with some friends.

Brannon's body was found on southbound Interstate 85 near the Sugar Creek Road exit at 10:14 p.m. on Feb. 22, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A preliminary investigation indicated that Brannon may have been involved in a fight with someone he knew prior to being hit by a vehicle, officials said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police charged a homeless teenager with murder in connection with Brannon's death. Investigators said they found Austin Kelligan, 19, at the scene and that he cooperated before being taken to Mecklenburg County jail.

Homeless advocates in Charlotte say Kelligan is well known to them as an extremely vulnerable teen who has mental impairment due to a brain injury. Both his long-term and short-term memory have been affected, they said. He is unemployed and has been living on the streets for months, they said.

Brannon retired from the U.S. Navy. His niece said he served as a meteorologist for about a decade.

Doug Miller

Feb. 19 - Christian Isaac Allen

Chris Allen, 18, was a well-liked student and athlete at East Mecklenburg High School.

His coach said the 6-foot, 190-pound Allen made all-conference in the Southwestern 4A Conference after his sophomore and junior seasons.

On Sun., Feb. 19, Allen was part of a large group of people attending a party in the 400 block of Kelford Lane, not far from Charlotte Christian School.

Investigators said Allen and another man got into an argument at the party. The altercation escalated and resulted in the shooting while Allen and the suspect were both inside the home.

Police said they were called to the home at 10:57 p.m. Sunday and arrived to find a male outside the residence with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center.

Carlos Olguin, 22, is charged with murder.

Doug Miller

Feb. 15 - Walter "Wes" Scott Jr.

Walter Scott Jr., 65, was shot and killed as he began his route delivering the Charlotte Observer uptown on Feb. 15.

He had delivered the Observer for almost 40 years and told his boss he intended to stick with the job until he died. He spent his own money on extra papers to hand out to security guards, cab drivers and others he encountered on his early-morning rounds. He started work around 2 a.m., seven days a week.

Police arrested and charged Roger Best, 22. They believe he was trying to rob Scott near the all-night 7-Eleven convenience store across from Romare Bearden Park on West Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Scott carried a gun, too, as a South Carolina constable - a position similar to a reserve police officer. He and Best exchanged fire, and Best flagged down police to report that he had been shot.

Scott was born in Charlotte, graduated from Garinger High School and started delivering papers at age 18 while attending UNC-Charlotte. He had four children and two stepchildren and lived in Lancaster County, S.C.

Along his route, which stretched from uptown to Beatties Ford Road, he collected close-to-expiration goods from grocers, which he took to organizations helping the homeless and needy. He once paid for a homeless acquaintance's cancer medication for months, his daughter said.

Mark Washburn, Jane Wester

Feb. 14 - David Bryon Eadie

David Bryon Eadie, 58, was shot and killed Feb. 14 on Oakcrest Place, off South Boulevard in the Sedgefield neighborhood. He was found inside a home and pronounced dead at the scene.

Eadie was born in Bethesda, Maryland, according to his obituary.

Police believe the shooting was drug-related. Jaquan Dosdos, 23, was arrested after a car chase and charged with murder.

Police spotted Dosdos during a traffic stop on Feb. 15 because they were looking for the car involved in Eadie's murder. Officers chased Dosdos through west Charlotte for about three miles before his car crashed. A handgun was found in the car.

Dosdos was immediately arrested for multiple traffic violations and was later charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Jane Wester

Jan. 26 - Stephon Gregory White

Stephon Gregory White, 20, was killed on the night of Jan. 26. Police said White was shot in the 6200 block of Bells Mill Drive. White was then driven to the 8700 block of Mallard Creek Road, where the driver stopped the car and called for Medic.

White was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center.

A few days later, Alexander Tavon Miller, 21, turned himself into police, and he was charged with murder.

LaVendrick Smith

Jan. 19 - Majestic Kincaid Bush

Majestic Kincaid Bush was an infant, just 3 1/2 months old and the youngest homicide victim of 2017. His mother, Chaz Bush, was arrested and charged with his death.

Police were called to the home in January, where they found Majestic unresponsive, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials determined the infant's death was the result of neglect.

LaVendrick Smith

Jan. 13 - Thomas Louis Beatty Jr.

Thomas Louis Beatty Jr. knew his killer, according to police.

Beatty, whom friends referred to as "Punkin" in online condolences to the family, was shot in a yard on the afternoon of Jan. 13 in the 5400 block of Morning Breeze Lane near Rozzelles Ferry Road.

He was 52 and died that day, 10 days after his birthday.

Beatty and the suspect knew each other and the shooting appeared to be drug-related, police said. Beatty was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

There have been no arrests in the case yet.

Adam Bell

Jan. 12 - Milton "Rick" Graham Jr.

Milton "Rick" Graham Jr. was a "happy-go-lucky guy" who cooked a mean steak, loved Bruce Willis movies and was in the process of taking courses to become a truck driver like his uncle, family members said

Younger brother Alexander Graham said Rick had helped raise him while their parents worked.

Now Rick, a construction worker, had four children of his own, ages 8 to 15.

The 37-year-old also was turning his life around, his family said, after some encounters with the law.

Rick worked hard to get into a townhouse on Blendwood Drive in Charlotte off The Plaza near Eastwood Drive, then had his girlfriend of 2 ½ years, Latisha Johnson, move in with him, Alexander said.

While Rick loved to cook, it was Johnson who made dinner the night of Jan. 12: pork chops with mac and cheese. Alexander was there, as was their father, Milton, and a cousin.

The night passed uneventfully, Alexander and Milton said.

As Alexander was leaving Rick told him how proud he was of him, and Alexander told his brother he loved him.

"I'll never forget it, it plays over and over in my mind," Alexander said. "He had so much to live for."

At 10:05 p.m., someone called 911 about a stabbing at the home. When police arrived they found Rick Graham had been stabbed in the chest; he was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

Johnson had left the scene and was later found with family members, police said the next day. The 32-year-old was charged with second-degree murder. Authorities said it was a "domestic violence related incident" but have not said what led up to the fatal stabbing.

Milton Graham and his wife Edna said they were proud of their son, who was raised to believe in Jesus and was loved by a lot of people.

"That speaks volumes right there," Milton said.

Adam Bell

Jan. 12 - Massaquoi Kotay

In 1993, Massaquoi Kotay fled the civil war raging in his native Liberia in search of a better life in the United States.

Around Charlotte, he was known for many things, said Teta Kotay, his daughter and the oldest of his four children.

He was "the car guy," because he'd go to auctions, fix up old cars and sell them.

He was hard-working and humble. And among the city's African community, he was a soft-spoken leader, someone who would do anything to help the community and make immigrants feel welcome.

"Anywhere he'd go, people were drawn to him," Teta Kotay said.

That included Liberia, where his daughter said he'd return to help bring water and electricity to his beloved home country. And he worked with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on those projects. There's a picture of the two of them in her father's' house, Teta Kotay said, but she said she feels too sad to go to the house to look at it.

Not only did Massaquoi Kotay survive a civil war but he also nearly died in a car accident in 2015, his daughter said.

Last fall, Teta Kotay said, the owner of a store in the 4400 block of N. Tryon Street that imported African food asked Massaquoi Kotay to become a partner with her. He agreed, said Teta Kotay, "because he had a kind heart" and wanted to help out the owner.

About four months later, on the afternoon of Jan. 12, police said two men walked into Mina African Mart shortly before Massaquoi Kotay was shot to death during an attempted robbery.

Shalome Quran Scott, 20, of Charlotte, was charged with murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon. Charlotte resident Desmond Black, 19, was charged with murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

In mid-July, and to the family's dismay, Black pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, and will serve 30 months of probation; the other charges were dropped. The prosecutor in the case said he was confident Black did not kill Kotay, but the only witness who could say whether Black helped plan the robbery was Scott, who remains charged with murder and robbery.

The family decided not to reopen the store, Teta Kotay said.

Massaquoi Kotay was 45 when he died. Recalling all of the good he did in the community in Charlotte and Liberia, Teta Kotay said quietly, "My dad was a hero."

Adam Bell

Jan. 4 - Jabari "Bezo" Stewart

Jabari "Bezo" Stewart was the type of guy to take in people who were down on their luck and give them a place to stay, said his fiancee, Brandy.

He was a California native who grew up in Virginia Beach, Va.

She said he had a "really big heart" and also loved building things, from beds to their first house. Stewart worked as an electrician for a company that did contract work for the Veterans Administration.

The couple had been together for 17 years, and had an 8-year-old daughter together. Stewart also had an 18-year-old daughter. He and Brandy eventually split up but she said they had gotten back together and she was planning to move in with him on Feb. 1.

They were supposed to get married May 22.

Stewart, 38, lived with his uncle and cousin in the 6200 block of Stonefort Court.

On the evening of Jan. 4, someone knocked on the door and when his uncle opened it, people with guns were there, Brandy said. The uncle screamed out for Stewart, who ran into the room and was shot in the shoulder but the bullet also hit his heart, Brandy said, while the suspects ran away.

All told, Stewart was shot five times, records show.

Stewart managed to make it to his next door neighbor's home to seek help. Police arrived soon after the 7:10 p.m. call for service, and Stewart was taken to CMC where he died a short time later.

A month later, a candlelight vigil was held for Stewart at Marshall Park. In a late April interview, Brandy was still hoping police would eventually find a suspect, but no charges have been filed yet. She speculated that Stewart was the victim of a home invasion that had gone wrong.

"He didn't have any enemies," she said softly.

Adam Bell

Jan. 3 - Shenika Monique Simpson

Shenika Monique Simpson, 37, didn't have an easy life, her grandmother said, but she was a humble woman, loved the Lord and adored her three grandchildren.

Mable Simpson helped raise Shenika after Shenika's mom died of an illness at age 32.

Shenika had been a young mom, and gave birth to a daughter at age 15, Mable Simpson said. She described her granddaughter as a quiet woman who enjoyed taking her grandchildren to church and sometimes lived with other family members.

One cousin she was close to, Raheem Hammond, was shot to death Dec. 15 in the 6500 block of Spring Garden Lane.

Early on the morning of Jan. 3, Shenika Monique Simpson was stabbed to death in the 1600 block of Vancouver Drive, a mile from where her cousin was killed.

The slaying happened near Interstate 85 and West Sugar Creek Road in the Hidden Valley neighborhood.

Police said Simpson knew the man arrested at the scene and charged with first-degree murder, Charlotte resident Michael Joseph Boone, 31. But authorities did not detail how Simpson knew Boone, a registered sex offender with the words "years of pain" tattooed across his chest. Mable Simpson said she did not know how her granddaughter knew Boone.

Nearly a month after Simpson's death, on Feb. 1, CMPD announced it was looking for a second man in connection with the slaying. Police said he might be a transient who was around Hidden Valley in early January.

But there have been no updates from CMPD since that time.

After her death, Shenika's daughter welcomed another child, who would have been Shenika's fourth grandchild.

It's still hard for Mable Simpson to talk about the tragedies that have befallen her family. "I never would've thought I'd see all this," she said.

Adam Bell

Jan. 2 - Anthony Frazier

Anthony Frazier had turned 14 the day before Christmas.

He was the son of Kannapolis police officer Daniel Frazier, on the force since 2015, and Brandi, a nurse. The death left the tightknit Kannapolis department "heartbroken," Chief Woody Chavis said.

At Kannapolis Middle, Anthony played basketball, football, track and field, and wrestling while also serving as a member of the Students Taking A Right Stand program. STARS which works with students in Cabarrus County and Kannapolis schools, focusing on strengthening leadership skills and community engagement.

On Jan. 2, he went out with several family members, including two of his aunts in Charlotte for a belated birthday celebration that included dinner and a movie, Daniel Frazier told Observer news partner WBTV. They were pulling into the family's driveway in the 200 block of Finchley Drive in northeast Charlotte.

They spotted two young men hiding in the bushes, who then turned and ran away but not before one of them fired a gun, hitting Anthony in the back of the head, according to media reports. He died the next day, CMPD said.

On April 12, police announced two arrests in the case, and credited information from the community in helping identify the suspects, two young men from Charlotte. Mangasha Dion Clark 19, was charged with murder and Reginald Lee Edmonds, 18, was charged with accessory after the fact to murder. There's no evidence that Anthony knew either of the suspects, police said.

Adam Bell

Jan. 2 - Natanael Jose Rodriguez

Natanael Jose Rodriguez was shot and killed hours before he would have attended a family birthday party, his aunt Damaris Valdez said. He was 22.

Valdez said Rodriguez was a friendly and open person, which sometimes meant he invited the wrong type of people into his life.

Police don't know who killed Rodriguez, who was found in his apartment with multiple gunshot wounds on Jan. 2. He was taken to the hospital, where he died.

CMPD and Rodriguez' family believe he knew his killer, and his apartment on the 6500 block of Monroe Road didn't show signs of a break-in.

Valdez said spending time with family was important to Rodriguez, and his relatives will live with the pain of losing him for the rest of their lives.

Jane Wester

Observer researcher Maria David contributed.