HUNTINGTON -- Dorothy Jackson was asleep Sunday, May 22, 2005, when her telephone rang. It was tragedy on the other line. The caller had heard gunshots about 4:30 a.m. at the residence of Jackson's grandson, Donté Ward.
Her daughter and granddaughters rushed to the 1410 Charleston Ave. address. She stayed back, praying as she paced the floor and repeatedly called Ward's cell phone. He never answered.
Jackson would ask "Why?" that morning, and her question remains five years later as the shooting that claimed the lives of her grandson and three other teenagers remains unsolved.
"I still have a hole in my heart," she said. "My (grand)son is between Earth and Heaven, as the four teenagers are still lingering to go to Heaven because their murders haven't been solved."
Ward, 19, of Huntington; Eddrick Clark, 18, of South Point, Ohio; Michael Dillon, 17, of Huntington; and Megan Poston, 16, of Barboursville were shot to death, five years ago Saturday. Police believe a drug dispute motivated someone to target Ward and kill the others to eliminate witnesses.
Clark and Ward had spent Saturday evening celebrating their birthdays, which were May 22 and May 23, respectively.
Across town that same night, Dillon and Poston had attended Huntington High School's prom. Poston's mother, Subrina, had spent most of Saturday getting her eldest daughter ready. They visited her father Kenny's Pea Ridge home about 5 p.m. He remembered noticing his daughter's excitement and grown-up beauty.
Although five years have passed since Huntington woke up to the deaths of the four teens, family, friends and many others in the community still recall vividly how they were confronted with the grim news that day.
'I just felt numb'
Kenny Poston sat up until about 3 a.m. that Sunday and fell asleep in a recliner. His phone call arrived about 5 a.m. It was Megan Poston's aunt, his sister, reporting that Megan had not exited the school's after-prom gathering.
Kenny and Subrina Poston, both worried and unaware of the shooting three miles away, met at Huntington High School. He demanded security guards open the school to find his daughter. He took his search to a nearby hotel. He was then stopped by a detective upon returning to the school entrance. The detective asked for a photo of his daughter and vowed to return.
Kenny and Subrina Poston, divorced at the time, anxiously waited atop the hill for about 20 minutes. He grew impatient and left only to be met again by the same detective, who delivered the news sometime after 6 a.m.
"It's still hard," Kenny Poston said last week.
At about the same time, news reached Cincinnati, where Ward's cousin Victoria Pankey lived. She reacted by throwing her cell phone against a wall, rendering it unusable.
"I just felt numb," she said. "It was unbelievable to me."
Mary Lyons' telephone call came from her grandson. The Ann Street resident was like thousands that morning who heard of the shooting, but had no direct ties to the victims or their families.
"I was like everyone else," she said. "You were just in shock and disbelief."
Pankey's group arrived from Cincinnati about 7 p.m. Everybody was on her aunt's front porch. The mood was one of anger and sadness.
Pankey and another cousin walked about 8:30 p.m. to a gasoline station, located just steps from the crime scene. Investigators were still there.
"'Why?' That is all we could keep on saying," she said.
Hoping for justice
Monday brought a new week, one mixed with sadness and anger.
Jackson joined the pursuit for justice. Federal, state and local law enforcement officers had fanned out that morning in a sweeping offensive aimed at detaining anyone with potential information.
Jackson and Ward's father followed behind, a friend listening to a police scanner updating them as to the officers' every move. Stops included raids along 11th Avenue and the former Stone Lodge hotel located on U.S. 60 in Pea Ridge.
"(I was) anxious and hoping and praying they would catch the ones that killed our kids," Jackson said.
Jackson later celebrated what would have been her grandson's 20th birthday. She had vowed no amount of sadness would erase his birthday. She still celebrates it to this day. The public is welcome to attend this year's party between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 23, at Hal Greer Boulevard and 10th Avenue.
"Although he was gone, he was still born on the 23rd of May," she said.
Jackson and Pankey were among about 1,000 mourners who attended a Monday night vigil at the house where the shooting occurred. Pankey remembered seeing blood and other remnants of the shooting.
Both also recalled seeing two rainbows in the sky.
"It made the hair stand up on my whole body," Jackson said. "I was amazed. It made me feel like God was keeping our kids under His wings."
Another vigil would be held a day later at Cabell Midland High School. Graduating senior Courtney Burns attended that vigil. She remembered there being pictures everywhere of her friend, Megan Poston.
The funerals followed in that week. The first was held Thursday, May 26, for Megan Poston. Her father's lasting memory of that day comes from the estimated 5-minute, half-mile procession that traveled from Huntington to a cemetery in Pea Ridge. He remembered the respect of locals, including an older woman he watch stop her task of digging a ditch at a truck stop.
"That's all I remember about that day," he said.
Ward's followed on Friday, May 27. Planning the funeral proved a difficult task for the woman that raised four children, four of her own grandchildren, her brother's son and a sister's granddaughter. She pulled through because of Ward's spirit, which she continually heard say, "Get me buried, Mother."
Clark and Dillon were laid to rest in separate services Saturday, May 28. Pankey recalled her cousin's casket resembling a Monte Carlo, the car he always wanted. She also remembered the family dressed him with Air Jordan shoes on his feet.
Clark's former classmates at South Point High School remembered their fallen friend at commencement a day later. He also was remembered at the Jacobs High School graduation in Cincinnati, Pankey said. He had transferred to South Point from the Queen City school earlier that school year.
Families brought together
The following weeks, months and years brought a mix of anguish, milestones and resolve.
Lyons got involved in the resolve. The funerals passed, but she still had an inner feeling that she needed to do something. She worked with funeral homes to contact each family, and that prompted a Friday, June 3, meeting at First Sentry Bank on 8th Street.
Lyons arrived at the bank that day with flowers for each family. Much to her surprise, Jackson also arrived with roses for Lyons. The gift from Ward's grandmother overwhelmed Lyons. Jackson said they were a token of her appreciation.
Lyons remembered it being a very somber mood that day as the families united behind a reward fund. It has grown in five years to reach $50,061. The bank meeting was the first time many of the family members had met.
"We didn't really know each other, but this was something that somebody was doing for us out of the kindness of their heart," Jackson said.
Police have never charged anyone in the quadruple homicide, but that hasn't kept Lyons and the victims' families out of court. They have followed one Detroit woman, Cherylethia "Bunny" Holmes, every step of the way. Testimony and court documents have linked her to the police investigation.
Lyons and family members filled courtroom pews at Holmes' federal drug hearings, and then they crossed 5th Avenue to the county courthouse when revelations also linked Holmes to the death of a former prostitute. Holmes, of Detroit, is serving a life sentence for her role in that death. She has denied any role in the quadruple homicide.
Kenny Poston, Jackson and Lyons kept returning to court in hopes of learning anything about the May 22, 2005 shooting. Many times Kenny Poston would sit in the pew stewing with anger from law enforcement's inability to solve his daughter's death.
"I would love to be able to take justice into my own hands," he recalled thinking.
A Barboursville church then added a dose of resolve in February 2007 by purchasing the 1410 Charleston Ave. residence for $10,000. The All Saints Anglican Church bought the property with visions of reclaiming it as a Hope House. That vision is hopefully just a few months from becoming a full reality now, said the Rev. Andrew Counts.
Jackson is thankful for the church's mission. It kept the house standing, allowing her to stop, pray and talk to her grandson. She still blows her horn as she drives by.
Jackson continues to question why police haven't solved her grandson's case, while anger Kenny Poston felt in that courtroom continues to build. He faults Huntington Police Department, then headed by former chief Gene Baumgardner. He feels the investigation passed through too many hands and suffered a crippling blow when thousands of wiretapped calls were tossed aside in an unrelated case.
Despite the anger and anguish that continues, many of those who knew the four teens remain hopeful their questions will eventually be answered.