They never knew Cortez Sims, but now, every time Talitha Bowman's family goes to court, they come face-to-face with the 18-year-old who allegedly gunned down their daughter.
They file into the gallery, sometimes 10 strong, wearing T-shirts with Talitha's motto scrawled across the front: "I don't get tired," a lyric from her favorite musician, Kevin Gates.
They colonize entire rows in silence and watch, as they have done so many times before — in Sessions Court, in Juvenile Court, and now in Criminal Court — as Sims shuffles out of his holding block in a black-and-white jumpsuit.
They were there Thursday when a judge agreed to have another settlement hearing March 23 because attorneys want more discovery in Sims' case. A prosecutor spoke to the family outside the courtroom about what happens next. He handed them a business card.
Police say Sims burst into a College Hill Courts apartment around 1 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2015, and opened fire. One bullet hit Talitha Bowman in her collarbone, causing it to explode and hit her heart. Two others were wounded, including a 1-year-old. Zoey Duncan, now 2, survived the attack but is paralyzed.
Amid the courtroom chatter, the Bowmans think of Talitha.
Smoodeyy, they called her, because she liked milkshakes. Anything smooth, really. Smoodeyy hardly got mad at people, Smoodeyy liked Dr Pepper, Smoodeyy wore colorful clothes that never matched. Smoodeyy's hair was purple, pink, blue, black.
"All colors were OK with her," said Sebrina Robinson, her mother.
Smoodeyy could draw animals, paint nails, write poetry. She loved vampires. Anything creative, really.
Smoodeyy graduated from Howard School, an outspoken woman who dreamed of attending culinary school, who slept in whenever she had the chance.
Smoodeyy was a single woman who forced her opinions into the public sphere whenever possible.
Smoodeyy had a tattoo of her nickname on her right leg. Her 17-year-old sister, Jerriann Robinson, has one above her heart.
Smoodeyy loved children. And she gravitated toward Bianca Horton's daughter, Zoey Duncan. That's where she was the night she died, lying beside Zoey.
Robinson got the call at 3 a.m.
She called Smoodeyy 100 times, praying between each ring.
Then she drove to the scene.
"We got there within 15 minutes," she said Thursday. "The first police officer said he couldn't say anything."
The second police officer she grabbed by the vest. She needed to know one thing about the victim.
What color was her hair?
"I remember her every day, from being a baby to even this day," Robinson said Thursday. "I remember her. She's always in my heart, she's always a part of me."
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at 423-757-6347 or firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas or tips.