LAURINBURG — For Santania Murphy, celebrations of her son’s 24th birthday next month will include no balloons, confetti and streamers — the only decorations will be flowers on his grave at Hillside Cemetery.
Early in the morning of Sept. 21, 2012, Johnathan Murphy was found dead on Lincoln Street, his body riddled with multiple bullets. No one has been charged with his murder.
“In Scotland County, it seems to me as though you could kill somebody and as long as nobody sees it you get away with it,” Santania Murphy said.
In 2012, Laurinburg had a violent crime rate of 972.5 per 100,000 people, and a murder rate of 25.1. Statewide, the violent crime rate was 358.6 per 100,000 people last year, with a murder rate of 5.1.
Murphy was one of six who died in Scotland County last year at the hands of others.
Authorities continue to investigate his death, as well as the shooting deaths of Larry Wayne Goodwin and Jennifer Megan Easterling in Easterling’s Tarboro Street home in June 2012. Easterling’s former boyfriend was initially charged in those killings, but the charges were dismissed earlier this year for lack of evidence.
There are also three remaining murder cases open from the seven reported in Laurinburg in 2011: No. 1 Convenience Store Clerk Yasin Geedi who was gunned down behind the North Main Street store; 22-year-old Darrell FuQuan Cagle who was found dead from gunshot wounds near Duncan Smith Apartments; and 25-year-old Derrick De’Monta Hasty, who was shot in his Covington Street home as he slept.
Investigators are also still working to find answers in the death Christy Lynn Russell, whose body was found buried in a mound of dirt several weeks after she was reported missing on Oct. 6, 2010.
At 1:56 a.m. on Saturday, Johnathan Murphy’s family held a candlelit vigil at the site where his body was found — less than a block from his home on Harrison Street, a place where his family and friends say he felt safe.
“I would have expected maybe in another area of town somebody hurting him, but not 200 feet from his house,” Murphy said. “I don’t think John would have expected somebody to shoot him 12 times. Not here.”
“He thought he was safe in his own environment, but you’re not safe nowhere it seems,” added family friend Sylvia Caldwell.
According to Laurinburg Police Department Chief Darwin Williams, the department is currently in the process of establishing a liaison network between detectives and the families of murder victims.
“They’re going to be in contact with these families to ensure that we haven’t forgotten about their loved ones and that we are still actively seeking someone to bring to justice for these crimes,” he said. “We’re making contact with these families just in case there are some new developments from their end — we’re actively seeking information.”
Murphy believes that, in her son’s case, those who could provide evidence as to the identity of his killer are afraid of retribution — a fear that only contributes to further killing in the future.
“Being afraid, all they’re doing is enabling them to go out and kill more people and hurt more families,” she said.
In addition to his mother, Johnathan left behind two siblings, a fiancee, and three children, one of whom had not been born at the time of his death. The last year has been hardest on six-year-old Jaquaisia, who was so distraught on Friday that she was sent home from school.
“He missed my whole pregnancy, he missed my little girl going to first grade, he missed my son’s first words,” said Jamesia Malloy, Johnathan’s fiancee. “My little girl, I just tell her that her daddy is always in her heart. She don’t got to look too far if she wants to know where he’s at. He’s still next to her in her heart.”
Though his family and friends find some consolation in memories of Johnathan, like his home-cooked macaroni and cheese and his love of baseball, they say that there will be no true resolution until someone is charged in his killing.
“I think it would give Tania more peace than what she’s going through now,” Caldwell said. “It can’t bring him back but personally I really want to know who would do that in his own hood where he lived and grew up and where everybody knew and loved him, or so they claimed.”
Still, Murphy said that there will be no such thing as justice for her family.
“If they’re man enough to shoot somebody 12 times I think that they should be man enough to stand before the judge and 12 peers and tell what was the reason to take a person who was so loved from his family,” she said. “I want to know who would be so heartless as to let me find his body.”