Justice hard to find in teen’s shooting, other homicides in Charleston area

Hezekiah Holloway’s mother, Linda Ivey, holds a Burke High School yearbook page that memorialized her 17-year-old son, who was fatally shot on Dec. 25 on Charleston’s East Side.

Nine months have passed since her 17-year-old son was gunned down in Charleston, and the most Linda Ivey has learned about the person who might have killed him came from a woman she met on the street.

Waiting at a bus stop one day, Ivey struck up a conversation with the woman because they both had lost young relatives to gun violence. But Ivey soon found out that the woman also had heard about what happened to her son, Hezekiah Holloway.

Holloway left their downtown home early on Christmas Day. Exactly what happened after that remains a mystery, but Ivey said she later learned from police that Holloway might have tried to break up a fight. Angered, one of the men involved responded by shooting Holloway.

The woman at the bus stop told Ivey that the man was a relative of hers. But Ivey couldn’t get a name from the woman, and they parted ways. Without specific details about a suspect, detectives from the Charleston Police Department have yet to make any arrests in the slaying, which was the last homicide of 2014 in the tri-county area. The investigators were unable to verify the account.

“I’ve just been praying and trying to find out what happened,” Ivey said. “I just want answers, and I’m upset that someone out there knows something, and they’re just not stepping forward.”

Holloway’s death stands out as one of the few recent killings that remain unsolved. Last year, 24 of 66 deaths, or 36 percent, did not result in murder charges; only seven of 51 homicides, or 14 percent, this year are unsolved. But authorities continue to reach out to the public for help in Holloway’s death and others that have stymied investigators in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.

Charleston detectives have worked to find Holloway’s killer, but the trail has gone cold. They have not determined a motive, police spokesman Charles Francis said. Francis and Detective Thomas Bailey urged anyone with information that could help to call the police or Crime Stoppers, an anonymous tip line.

“The detectives have exhausted all leads and need the public’s help in solving this case,” Francis said.

In many cases, witnesses who have information that could lead to an arrest are uncooperative.

Sheriff’s deputies in Berkeley County arrested two men in the July 21 death of Donald Lloyd Jr., 27, but the person responsible for his death remains unnamed. The deputies said Shabazz Watson, 19, conspired to sell marijuana to Lloyd on Frank Jones Road. At some point, Lloyd was shot. Watson and his roommate, Markel Bailey, 26, then picked up a gun at the scene and hid it, the deputies said.

Watson and Bailey were arrested on charges of obstructing justice, but no one has been charged with murder.

Responding to a spike in unsolved killings last year, Project Unity USA started offering a Web page where people can anonymously submit tips in crimes like Lloyd’s killing. The local nonprofit hoped to reach people who might not trust the police. The organizers, who don’t have direct links to police agencies, forward any tips to the investigators handling the crimes.

Since the page started early this year, Project Unity Director Butch Kennedy said it has led to arrests in two major Lowcountry cases. He declined to identify which ones.

“I want to make sure the community knows we’re here,” he said, “and when they reach out to us, we will make sure that information gets to the right agency.”

In Charleston, Holloway had been a budding athlete at Burke High School when passersby found him wounded on Hanover Street. His bicycle, his keys and two shell casings rested on the pavement nearby. Before he died at a hospital, he managed to utter only the words, “I was shot.”

Haunted by thoughts of how she could have stopped her son from going out that morning, Ivey occupies her time looking for answers. She also wonders whether Holloway’s father, who is thought to be living in Florida, ever learned of the teenager’s death. She has no way to contact him, she said.

She was on her way to a doctor’s appointment when she ran into the woman at the bus stop. The woman had heard from her own family members about what had happened to Ivey’s son.

Holloway was summoned out of the house on Christmas morning, and the woman told Ivey that he went to the Bridgeview Village apartments, an East Side neighborhood beset with drug problems and violence. At some point, he might have stepped into the dispute, Ivey said.

When she first heard about the story, Ivey thought it made sense. Her son was always smiling and making jokes. He respected others. It wasn’t far-fetched for him to defuse a fight, she said.

“He never got mad,” Ivey said.

But one of the men involved in the dispute had an ax to grind with Holloway’s friends. The man accused them of beating him up during a past encounter, Ivey said she learned.

Ivey listened to the woman who said the gunman was a relative. She wondered if the woman could help a police artist sketch the suspect. But the woman was in a rush, and the bus stop was busy. The woman walked off. Ivey couldn’t remember her name and didn’t get her number.

“I didn’t know who she was,” Ivey said, “and I haven’t seen her since.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.