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Family mourns, asks community to turn on porch lights for anniversary of A’yanna Allen’s death

By Shavonne Potts
shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Some days are tougher than others for Shequita Woodberry, whose daughter A’yanna Allen was shot and killed on Dec. 4, 2016, while asleep at her grandmother’s Harrell Street home.

A’yanna’s death remains unsolved, along with that of 22-year-old Sharod Mathis, who was shot hours earlier outside of then-restaurant and lounge, Firewater. Police officials say an argument ensued before Mathis was shot just after 1 a.m. in the parking lot outside the Avalon Drive restaurant, which has since closed. He was taken to the hospital by a private vehicle and later died.

Sometime shortly after 4 a.m., someone shot into 200 Harrell St., the home of A’yanna’s grandmother, Shirley Robinson. Those gunshots struck the home, including a bedroom window where A’yanna and her grandmother slept.

The 7-year-old died instantly, the result of multiple gunshot wounds. Her grandmother was shot once in the leg.

“These last four years have been the hardest but we got through,” Woodberry said.

She said there are some days where she cries and doesn’t want to do anything. But she has to snap herself out of it.

“I wipe my tears because I know I’m gonna be OK. The pain will always be there but it just eases,” she said.

Instead of gathering for a vigil, the family is inviting all in the community to turn their porch lights on Friday, the anniversary of the A’yanna’s death.

Ongoing investigation

Police have maintained the two shootings were related, but have not provided specific details as to how they are connected.

Only one person was charged in connection with the case, Savannah Maria Queen. Her charges came weeks after the shooting when police arrested her on obstruction charges. Police said Queen removed a gun that was on the ground at Firewater. She denied on multiple occasions to the police that there was a gun.

She was convicted in March 2018 and given probation. Queen’s probation was revoked, and she was sentenced in March of this year to three months in prison.

The investigation remains active, but Woodberry said she wonders why the department removed Sgt. Travis Shulenburger from the case after several years. He now handles police internal investigations.

Although not directly involved in the case, Shulenburger agreed to speak with the Post about the investigation. Shulenburger said the lead investigator is Detective T. Everett, who will solely focus on this case in January. He said the case has always been a top priority for the Salisbury Police Department.

“There are obviously other cases that are also a priority,” he added, “including the double homicide and the shooting of the 17-year-old at Laurel Pointe.”

Shulenburger said he spoke recently with A’yanna’s maternal grandmother, April Woodberry, and she as always seemed hopeful.

“She seems confident that the case will be cleared,” he said.

April Woodberry declined a request for an interview, but said she’ll be turning her porch light on for A’yanna.

Shequita Woodberry said she’s hopeful the continued focus on her daughter’s murder will develop into an arrest.

“She was just a baby. She was my baby,” Shequita Woodberry said, adding that she’s confident she will “get the justice I deserve.”

There is still a $20,000 reward for information that leads to arrest of those responsible for A’yanna’s death.

Community support

Local residents Jamella Propst and Minnette Smith have in the past organized vigils for A’yanna, Mathis and other homicide victims. This year, the women are also asking that people turn on their porch lights on Friday in honor of the second-grader.

Propst, the owner of YouNique Starz Dance team, said she’s mindful of bringing up what could be hurtful memories for A’yanna’s family but she wanted to think of a way to remember the Koontz Elementary School student.

“It’s really sad. We thought her killer would’ve already been caught. It’s really sad and disheartening and painful for her family that no one has been charged with responsibility for her death,” she said.

Propst is also asking people to burn a candle for A’yanna. She also plans to add a purple bow to her home because it was A’yanna’s favorite color.

It’s all “to let them know there are people out there who haven’t forgotten,” she said of the family.

Shequita said she’s appreciative of the community support from others, especially Propst and Smith.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact the Salisbury Police at 704-638-5333 or Salisbury-Rowan Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.

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