UPATOI, GA (WTVM) – It has been three years since a tragic nightmare struck a family in Upotoi, Georgia.
The heartache still weighs heavy on Shameika Averett. She lost her mother Gloria Short, her brother Caleb Short, and her 10-year-old daughter Gianna Lindsay. The three were found dead by a relative who returned home from work.
"The past three years has changed us all in so many ways. We’re still struggling with it, feeling like just happened. We still don’t understand it. We still don’t know why they’re not here,” says Averett.
Three suspects were arrested in the following month of the killings: Javarceay Tapley, Raheam Gibson and Rufus Burks were all arrested for several charges including murder. After their arrests, it was nearly two years before the three headed to trial following a number of back and forth court dealings. The trio was set to stand trial together, but on the day trial was to begin, Tapley and Gibson pleaded guilty. Burks stood trial alone. Burks was found guilty five of 10 charges against him.
“We got through the trial and we got through the sentencing. We got some closure. All of us would have wanted the defendants to say they apologize,” says Averett. On the anniversary, family and friends came together to remember their loved ones.
"It’s hard, so I think they look down and I think they’re angels. They’re angels and I think they’re with us each and every day,” says Denicia Sumbry.
Averett says there’s a message she wants to send with hopes to put an end to gun violence.
“There’s so many things going on in this community. So many young people are losing their lives to violence. I just want to encourage those families to still believe that God is real.”
Since the killings Averett, has spent a lot of time speaking to others and helping them deal with the loss of loved ones. She says it’s helping in her healing. She plans to do even more of that in the future.