Shock, tears, calls for justice mark vigil for slain women

Wilhelmenia Wilson grieves for her cousin Janet Royal at a candlelight vigil held Saturday night in North Charleston in memory of Royal and Debra Randall Martin, who were killed by unknown shooters. Buy this photo

Relatives of Janet Royal shed tears as they struggled to accept that she died in North Charleston New Year's violence that also claimed the life of another woman and wounded a third.

"Out heart is in pieces. They took a great person away from us," said her mother Thelma Simmons.

Royal had three adult children and worked as a custodian at the Charleston City Market. She was generous and made others laugh, her relatives said at a Saturday night candlelight vigil for the victims.

"We are in shock. We are still waiting for her to walk in the door," said Teresa Royal, a cousin.

The three shootings occurred within two miles of each other. Authorities identified the slain women as Debra Randall Martin, 49, of Ventura Drive, and Royal, 52, of Niagara Street. Martin was shot and killed at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Royal was shot at around 5 a.m. and died later in a hospital. Sabrina Green 41, of Aintree Avenue, was shot at 5 a.m. and hospitalized, police said.

Police Chief Eddie Driggers attended the vigil held not far from where the crimes occurred. He declined to comment on the investigation but spoke to grieving relatives.

"We are working very hard to bring these people to justice. My heart bleeds for you," he said.

No suspects have been identified, police said.

Several speakers urged cooperation with investigators. Worries about being labeled a "snitch" need to be put aside for the good of the community, they said.

"Somebody knows something. They have to give law enforcement a chance to do their jobs," said Pastor Thomas Dixon.

Anyone with information about the crimes may call police at 554-5700 or text 274637.

All three women were inside their houses and shot from the outside. Knocks at the door were heard at two of the homes before the gunfire rang out, police said.

Dixon urged dozens of people at the vigil to be on their guard if there is a knock at the door when no one is expected.

"Please be careful about just randomly opening up your door," he said.

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