SPECIAL REPORT: Tragedy and Honor - Remembering the Upatoi murder victims

(Source: WTVM)
(Source: WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A grandmother, granddaughter and son...brutally murdered. The pain and grief of unbelievable loss is palpable as this family clings together and tries to honor their loved ones.

Robert Short and his family attend a victim's memorial service and hang paper hearts on a memorial tree in honor of his wife Gloria Short, his 17-year-old son Caleb and 10-year-old granddaughter Gianna Lindsey.

It was nearly four months ago that Short returned home from work to find all three brutally murdered inside their Upatoi home.

"We all miss them, all of our hearts are broken, we have to go day by day to support each other to cope and get through and we have a lot of family and friends who are behind us and we appreciate everyone," Short said.

Short has never shared his grief with the media before and even now, his words are few as he tries to express the magnitude of his loss.

"I really don't know, we just go day by day with God's grace keeps us going every day, but it's extremely difficult," Short recently told us.

Shameika Averett lost her daughter, mother and brother in the murders. She says she doesn't ever want her family to be forgotten.

Gianna, who the family called GiGi, was her only child. She was visiting her grandmother in Upatoi when she was killed.

Averett gave us a tour of her bedroom, which has not been changed in any way since her death. Averett says GiGi's room is her place of solace.

"I spend time in here, when I want to really feel close to her and I lay on her bed and I try to connect with her as much as I can you know in this room," Averett said.

From the teddy bears to the dollhouse to the peace signs on the walls, Averett says this room epitomizes her little girl, who was full of life and love.

"She was just your typical 10-year-old just growing up and so that is what I miss the absolute most about her was just her personality," Averett said. "She was very loving, very sympathetic, very empathetic and just a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl."

Rather than sadness or anger, Averett says gratitude for the lives of her daughter, mother and brother is where she chooses to put her energies, though she admits it is not easy.

She can't help but get angry when she thinks of all the things her brother Caleb would be doing if he were still here.

"He would be going to prom, he had a little girlfriend and he was still shy about talking to girls and he was getting there. He had girls who liked him, he just didn't know how to talk to them yet," said Averett.

As for her mother Gloria, the family's "rock," Shameika says even though she is gone her strength still permeates everything the family does...

"She was just so funny, so loving she had a huge heart and she was just so strong," Averett said. "And I have a lot of that strength that I draw from her. She wouldn't want us to wallow in this and just roll over and die she would want us to be the strong independent women that she raised."

Although they grieve, this family says it's Gloria's legacy and their faith in God that helps them get past the sorrow.

Moving forward, Shameika wants to make sure her family is remembered and honored and celebrating the fantastic gift they were given of knowing and loving them.

"I look at her things and I look at pictures and I focus on how wonderful she was, I focus on how wonderful my mother was and how wonderful my brother was and I thank God to have spent so many so many moments precious moments and holidays and just wonderful times with them that I will cherish, cherish, cherish for the rest of my life.  So I feel honored and blessed."

As for the suspects, 19-year-old Raheam Gibson, 17-year-old Jervarceay Tapley - who was a close family friend, and 15-year-old Rufus Burks, are all being held on murder and other charges.

They pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance and no new court date has been set.

Police believe that robbery was the motive for the killings. They say $600, clothes, shoes, video games and the family vehicles were all taken from the scene.

Averett says they are waiting for the investigation to be complete, adding that they are not condemning the suspects and want everyone to remember they are innocent until proven guilty.

Follow the investigation from the very beginning by clicking here.

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