While more than 40 people met Thursday night to remember a man killed last week in a shooting in Statesboro, the family of a woman gunned down two years ago held a quiet, intimate memorial service.
Police still don't know who shot and killed Akeila Roschelle Martin, 32, of Statesboro, outside the Platinum Lounge on Proctor Street Aug. 19, 2012. Another woman was wounded in the same incident, but she recovered.
The Platinum Lounge, along with the Primetime Lounge on Northside Drive West, were shut down after Johnnie L. Benton, 25, of Rincon, was killed and another man was wounded in a shooting there. About 90 minutes before that Nov. 10 incident, shots were fired outside Platinum Lounge, though no one was hurt.
Martin's family sat silently Thursday evening at Mill Creek Park, each sharing memories of the "bubbly" and outgoing woman her sister, Mylania Martin, said was her best friend growing up.
She and her mother, Barbara Martin Hightower, both said they realize nothing will bring Akeila back to life, but they hope someone will come forward with information about her killer. The Statesboro Police Department is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who shot her.
Akeila was in a large crowd Aug. 19, 2012, outside the Platinum Lounge around 2:30 a.m. when she was killed. Eyewitnesses saw a black male talking to her seconds before shots rang out, but Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner said in previous interviews that although more than 100 people were interviewed after the shooting, there still is no clear description or identification of the gunman.
Surveillance video from the Statesboro Herald, located across the street from the Platinum Lounge, shows people gathered outside the club, talking and standing in the parking lot. A Statesboro police car rolls past, and seconds later, the video shows people scattering and running in all directions. Many returned to the scene within minutes.
With so many people there, it is hard to believe no one knows anything, Hightower said.
She last saw her daughter alive a few days before the slaying.
"She stayed about 30 minutes and left, saying she'd be back," she said.
Akeila never returned.
Mylania said her sister was never still, always on the go.
"She made friends with anybody," she said. "It's hard to believe anybody would do that to her."
Mylania last spoke with Akeila shortly before she was killed. Akeila had stopped by her home asking for food but left before dinner was ready. Mylania said she called her sister to tell her supper was done, but Akeila told her she was involved in social activities at the time and never arrived to eat. The next thing the family knew, police were informing them of the shooting, she said.
Nobody will open up and talk to the family or police about Akeila's death. Those who have talked haven't been credible, Mylania said.
"There are so many stories out there, and you don't know who is telling the truth," she said.
The victim left five children, now ranging in age from 11 to 17. One daughter told Hightower she dreamed of her mother having a picnic with her. Hightower said she thinks of her daughter and misses her daily.
Akeila was an outgoing adult but was quiet growing up, her mother said.
"She loved music - would (play music) and sing," Hightower said.
Mylania had a different way of describing her sister.
"She was basically a free spirit and had a little bit of mean in her," she said with a laugh. "But you had to push her."
It was Akeila who always told on her siblings, Mylania said.
"She would tell and get us in trouble all the time," she said. "I was the troublemaker, and she would tell."
Once, she put "hog corn" up Akeila's nose, she admitted. Hightower remembered that day.
"I had to get it out and told (Mylania) I would handle her next," Hightower said.
But Hightower also recalls a darker memory - the night she learned her "baby girl" was gone forever.
"I kind of lost it," she said. "I said, ‘It can't be true. Not my baby.' I think about it late at night and early every morning - she was killed for no reason."
Mylania said she believes people who know what happened are afraid to come forth, despite the significant reward being offered.
"My thoughts are, there is more to this than we think, and they are afraid of somebody," she said.
Both she and Hightower said they implore anyone who knows anything - even the slightest bit of information - to go to police.
To the one who shot her daughter, Hightower said: "How can you sleep at night knowing you took a life? I want to know who killed my daughter. It constantly wears on me every day."
The family needs closure, Mylania said.
"Please come forward and ease our pain," she said. "We're not holding resentment. We just want to know why."
As the family sat together Thursday evening, sharing memories, the victim's stepfather added his pleas to anyone who has any information.
"Whoever did this needs to come forward so we can be at ease and she can be at rest," James Hightower said.
Anyone with information concerning this case is asked to contact the Statesboro Police Department at (912) 764-9911. You may also anonymously submit information to www.tipsoft.com or by texting a tip starting with "TIPSSPD" to 274637 (CRIMES).
All information is strictly confidential, police said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.