More than two months after two women were shot and killed on Chattanooga's Westside, police have yet to make any arrests in connection with the Sept. 25 shootout at a community block party.
"We've had people say 'I saw this' or 'I know this,' but no one is willing to go and say that in front of a jury," said Evette Hughes, the mother of one of the victims, 21-year-old Keniqua Hughes. "So if we can find that one person who is willing to do that, out of the 100 and something that was out there — that would be wonderful."
Keniqua Hughes and 37-year-old LaBrecia Dews were killed and five other women were injured at the "Back to the Westside" event on Grove Street. The youngest of the shooting victims was 14.
Dews had celebrated her birthday in July and one of her six children had just been accepted into Alabama A&M. She loved watching "The Golden Girls" and worked at a retirement home on Shallowford Road.
Evette and Kendrick Hughes remember their daughter, Keniqua, as being outgoing and ambitious. To her friends, she was known as Ken-Ken, the oldest of four children. Keniqua was also a majorette and loved to dance.
She took part in cosmetology training at The Howard School, graduating in 2018. She certified herself to braid hair and started her own business, Pure Braids, which had begun gaining momentum, motivating her to want to move to Atlanta.
"She was getting ready to move Pure Braids to Atlanta, and she wanted to move into celebrity hair braiding," Evette Hughes said at her Chattanooga home. Keniqua's father had decided to invest in the business and help it grow.
"The day I decided to invest in her company was the day it happened," Kendrick Hughes said. "We were going to do a whole line of products, make a boutique, all of it."
Keniqua Hughes last spoke to her mother on the evening of Sept. 25. She was upset that a friend of hers, 21-year-old Jailen Donyelle Moore Wofford, had been shot and killed the day before. Keniqua Hughes was heartbroken over her friend's killing.
"She told me how sad she was about Jailen, how it really hit home," Evette Hughes said.
When Keniqua Hughes left work that day, she picked up her younger sister and went to get something to eat. She then dropped her sister off with friends and headed to Grove Street to visit a friend. She was living with a boyfriend at the time, but things weren't working out, and she told her mother she was going to move back home the next day. She never made it.
"We FaceTimed about 15-20 minutes before it happened," said Evette Hughes, who was in Atlanta with her husband when the shooting occurred. "It's been devastating, especially for her younger sister. She looked up to her."
The Hugheses said someone present at the shooting told them Keniqua was grabbed and told to stay on the ground, but she took off running toward her friend's house. She ran straight into the crossfire and was killed, they said.
"She died at the bottom of the stairwell of her friend's house," Evette Hughes said.
"She was trying to get away," Kendrick Hughes said. "And she was trying to run to the stairwell to get into his house. They were shooting from inside [the place] she was running to."
The Hugheses said they have been told there were two groups of people shooting at each other from across the street.
Keniqua's body was identified by one of her cousins and by Kendrick Hughes' grandmother, who lives in a nearby area and went to the scene as soon as the shooting stopped. She then called Kendrick and Evette and notified them.
Despite the pain, the Hugheses said they find solace in remembering their daughter as very outgoing, always smiling and full of life, energy and ambition. With Keniqua's dreams cut short, her parents have taken it upon themselves to keep her business going.
"We're going to keep her legacy alive," said Kendrick Hughes, who plans to keep his daughter's business up and running and turn it into the boutique she wanted.
They also hope someone will come forward to answer the question of who is responsible for their daughter's death, Evette Hughes said.
"I'm hoping someone will come forward and be willing to take the stand and be willing to accept witness protection," Evette Hughes said.
Sgt. Jeremy Eames, a spokesperson with the Chattanooga Police Department, said the department sometimes works with the Victim Services unit, as well as the District Attorney's Office, to relocate victims or witnesses who choose to come forward with any information in unsolved crimes.
Anyone who knows anything about this or any other crime can leave an anonymous tip on the Crime Stoppers hotline at 423-698-3333.
Contact La Shawn Pagán at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.