Clues elusive in killing of Ravenel mom

Purple balloons tied to a chain-link fence mark the site where 24-year-old Latorria Heyward was killed July 13 in Ravenel. Two men stormed into her residence at Three Oaks Mobile Home Park, 6386 Savannah Hwy., and fatally shot her in an apparent robbery.

A week after 24-year-old Latorria Heyward was gunned down in her Ravenel home, Charleston County sheriff's deputies continue to hunt for clues that may lead them to the men responsible.

Heyward's fiance, Jerry Simmons, 29, was also hit by bullets, but he survived the attack at Three Oaks Mobile Home Park on Savannah Highway.

Money was stolen from the couple in the home invasion, authorities said. They planned to wed later this month.

Charleston County sheriff's Maj. Eric Watson couldn't say whether the shooting was a targeted attack.

Purple balloons fell limp against a chain-link fence last week, marking the lot where Heyward lived with her two young children. The balloons appeared in the days following her death, said a neighbor, Amanda Mias.

After 15 years at the mobile home park, Mias said she had grown to feel safe in the community she described as being a quiet place to live. So when she woke to find deputies combing the 10-lot plot of land around 2 a.m. July 13, she couldn't begin to guess what could warrant such a large response.

Mias didn't hear the gunshots. But the thought of them has prompted her to firmly lock the doors she once kept open so that her young grandchildren could come and go.

Mias recalled giving ice cream and water to Heyward's children when they played outside with her grandchildren. Heyward often did the same when the children frolicked near her home, Mias said.

The youth are the ones who will bear the brunt of the violence's effect, she said.

Heyward's children didn't deserve to lose a mother. Her own grandchildren shouldn't have to live in fear, she said.

"Why'd they have to do something like that? I ask myself, why? I hope they catch those people. That was a kid's mother who died. At least they'll still have a father," Mias said.

Details surrounding Heyward's death were few in the wake of the shooting.

Two men stormed into the woman's home in an alleged robbery, according to an incident report released by Charleston County sheriff's deputies.

The invaders fired four shots into Heyward's body. She died at the scene, authorities said.

Simmons was shot three times. He was treated and later released from Medical University Hospital.

Heyward's mother hid in a back room and was not wounded. She ran to a neighbor's home for help after the shooting, 911 recordings revealed.

"Oh my God! ... They shot him," the woman cried in the background while her neighbor spoke with a dispatcher.

The caller unsuccessfully attempted to pass the phone to the mother after questions about the suspects' descriptions arose three and a half minutes into the call.

"She can't. She's walking around having a big fit," the caller said.

Deputies later described the gunmen as two armed black males. One of the men was slim and wore a white T-shirt, deputies said.

No arrests had been announced and no suspects identified as of last week.

According to Watson, investigators found several spent cartridges at the scene that "more than likely" came from the invader's weapon.

He would not say if any illegal items were found inside the home.

"This case is still active," he said, adding that he can't elaborate beyond the shell casings regarding what evidence was found.

North Charleston police found marijuana in Simmons' possession and arrested him April 2011, State Law Enforcement Division records showed. He was convicted, the records showed, but the disposition of that charge was not immediately clear.

Simmons was also listed as a sex offender stemming from an arrest in 2002 when he was 17, according to SLED records. He pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced under the state Youthful Offender Act, Charleston County court records showed.

Heyward did not have an extensive criminal history. An obituary said she was employed as an assistant convenience store manager at Murphy USA.

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