Excellor "Cella" Peebles was the glue that held the family together, the one to whom everyone turned in their time of need. Now they must continue without her.
The 64-year-old grandmother and family matriarch was found stabbed to death Saturday in her North Charleston home in the Waylyn community.
"Now me and my sister have to carry her legacy on. She was a good role model for everybody," said her daughter, Lisa Peebles. "Her shoes are big to fill."
Cella Peebles raised her girls as a single mother in the former Bayside Manor housing complex on North Romney Street in Charleston. Their home was filled with children, including two nieces that she raised, as well.
"Kids never wanted to leave her house," Lisa Peebles said. "Everyone would go to talk to her. She would give good advice, and if a person was down and sad, she could lift them up. Her hobby was taking care of other people."
For more than 20 years she worked as a reservation clerk at the Quality Inn on Calhoun Street in Charleston, and in about 1988 she scraped up enough money to buy a little house on Alabama Drive in North Charleston. A decade later she went to work at the front desk of the Andrew Pinckney Inn on Church Street downtown.
She didn't show up for work Saturday morning.
Cella Peebles' boyfriend of three years, Ernest Brown, spoke with her about 9:45 p.m. Friday. He was on his way home to Moncks Corner, and she wanted him to let her know when he arrived safely. But when he called her about 11 p.m., Peebles didn't answer. He called again and again with no response, until he finally drifted off to sleep about 3 a.m., he said.
At dawn, he started ringing the line again, and when no one answered he called her daughters, who both headed toward the house on Alabama Drive.
"When I got here, all I saw was police cars and ambulances," Lisa Peebles said. "It was unbelievable."
Police discovered Cella Peebles' lifeless body in a closet next to her bedroom. She had suffered multiple stab wounds.
"The house had blood drops on the floor starting from the front door back to where she was laying in the closet," a police report said.
Cassandra Ann Bailey, 23, of North Charleston is charged with murder and armed robbery. She admitted to investigators that she stabbed the elderly woman in the chest and then took about $65 and a cell phone, an affidavit said.
"The defendant provided a signed written statement detailing the incident and provided information which led to the discovery of the victim's cell phone and the knife which was utilized during the stabbing," an officer wrote in the affidavit.
Peebles and Brown had started dating around Valentine's Day of 2006. They planned a trip to New York City in February to celebrate their third anniversary.
"He brought a lot of joy into her life," Lisa Peebles said. "They did a lot of traveling together, and she was so happy."
Bailey was a friend who would stay at Cella Peebles' house when the couple went out of town. She kept an eye on the home and took care of Peebles' toy poodle, Lacey.
Bailey's criminal history shows she had no convictions in South Carolina. She remained at the Charleston County Detention Center on Monday. Magistrate Priscilla Baldwin denied Bailey the opportunity to make bail on the robbery charge, and she will face a circuit judge later for a bond hearing on the murder charge.
A wake will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday at Suburban Funeral Home, 2336 Meeting Street Road in North Charleston. The funeral is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Peebles' church, World Harvest Ministries of Charleston at 3441 West Montague Ave. in North Charleston.
Brown on Monday said he had planned to marry Cella Peebles.
"She was my heart," he said. "She was like the whole world to me."