Khadijah’ James remembers her mother as a joyful person who loved life.
Erica Reaves worked hard and loved her family more than life itself, according to James — the oldest of Reaves’ three children.
The 43-year-old Reaves worked as a personal caregiver for several people in the community and had just begun working as a cook in the deli department of Piggly Wiggly in Milledgeville a few months ago.
Reaves and her brother, Tyric James Justice, 30, were shot to death inside the duplex apartment residence where Reaves had called her home for the past 11 years. The shooting took place last Saturday — Independence Day weekend.
Now, her oldest daughter and her husband have taken into their home Khadijah’s younger siblings — both of whom are teenagers.
They are now planning a double funeral for their beloved mother and uncle and grappling with making sense of who would want her mother and uncle dead — and why.
“We want justice for our mother and our uncle,” James told The Union-Recorder during a telephone interview earlier this week. “Somebody somewhere knows something about the shootings and they need to tell the police. That’s the only way we’re going to get justice for them.”
James said she was awakened by a telephone call early last Saturday from her younger sister.
“She told me everything over the phone, and I rushed out there, immediately,” James recalled. “I was called, literally just after it happened.”
Her mother lived in a duplex apartment on Laura Court, which runs off Anthony Way and Grandview Drive in Milledgeville.
James said she believes her younger brother and sister are alive today because they stayed quiet in their bedrooms during the shooting rampage, which also critically wounded Reaves’ boyfriend, Quincy Lamont Jackson, 38, also of Milledgeville.
“They stated that they stayed in their bedrooms until they saw the blue lights of the police cars pull up outside,” James said.
When they finally felt it safe to emerge from their bedrooms they came out and saw their mother, uncle and the man they referred to and respected as their stepfather.
“As soon as they walked out of their bedrooms, they saw them — each one of them shot,” James said. “They didn’t say exactly where they were because they were so traumatized.”
She described her mother as a very compassionate person.
“She would do anything for anybody,” James recalled. “She was a wonderful person and a joyful person. Overall, she was just an amazing person. Anybody would you tell you that, that knew my mother. My mother was absolutely the best person in the world, and I’m not just saying that because she was my mother. That was just the kind of person she was.”
James said she will always remember her mother’s beautiful smile.
“She was always smiling,” she said. “If you saw her, you would never forget her because of her beautiful smile and her kindness to others.”
James said her mother also loved embracing family members and friends.
“She loved hugging her family and friends,” her daughter said. “She loved everybody.”
James said that was one of the reasons losing her mother was so difficult for her and her siblings.
“She didn’t have an enemy that I know anything about,” she said. “She was a wonderful, loving mother to all three of her kids. That’s what I want everybody to know about her.”
James said it’s not fair to her or her siblings that their mother was taken from them in such a terrible, brutal way.
She also talked about her uncle and the fact that she and her siblings were the only ones left from her mother’s side of the family because her maternal grandparents died last year.
“It’s only us, now,” James said. “My brother and sister only have me to care for them, now.”
She said her uncle was a good man, too.
“He didn’t deserve this, either,” she said. “My mother and my uncle were good people. They were wonderful people. Even my stepdad was a good person — a wonderful person. None of them deserved what happened to them.”
Jackson, meanwhile, who is still recuperating in a Macon hospital after being shot a week ago along with his girlfriend of seven years and her brother, was described as a nice guy, too, according to James.
“They were together for about as long as me and my husband have been together, and we’ve been together for eight years,” James said.
She said her mother and Jackson, who also has a biological daughter, got along really well with each other.
“You would rarely see one without the other,” Khadijah’ said. “That’s just how close they were. They loved each other.”
She said she and her siblings treated Jackson just like a stepfather.
“My stepdad was so good to my mother and he loved her so much,” she said.
Jackson worked as a handyman.
“He worked on cars and trucks as a mechanic and houses as a carpenter,” she said.
More than anything else, James said she wants the residents of Duplex City and elsewhere in Milledgeville to know that she wants justice for her mother, her uncle and her stepfather.
“We want justice for them and the only way we’re going to begin to get it is for people to come forward and tell the police what they know about this shooting,” Khadijah’ said.
A special candlelight vigil is scheduled for Sunday around 8:30 p.m. in front of the duplex apartment where Erica Reaves lived at 2309 Laura Court.
There also is a gofundme account that has been set up for the costs of the funerals of Erica Reaves and Tyric Justice.