WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- March 27, 2017 is a day that stings for the family of Ladawn Morgan. That's the day their daughter, niece and future aunt became an innocent bystander shot and killed in another senseless shooting in the Piedmont Triad.
Two years later, almost to the day, and her mother, April Warren, and Uncle Michael were sitting inside April’s new apartment in Winston-Salem to talk with FOX8 about the case.
April said she had been living there for two months, which was only re-enforced by the several brown boxes still waiting to be unpacked, a TV that was balanced so carefully on a small nightstand drawer, an outdoor bench that was temporarily acting as a living room couch for visiting guest.
“I’m sorry for the mess,” April said as she moved a set of brown plates that were stacked on the kitchen table.
As she moved the plates to the kitchen counter her eyes drifted ever so slightly to the three poster-sized photos she had in her living room. They were of her daughter Ladawn.
“This was taken just before she died,” she said pointing to one of the photos of Ladawn wearing a green sweatshirt. When she said this, there were no tears. Just a small smile which quickly retreated as the numb feeling swept back over her.
April sat back down at the kitchen table where Uncle Micheal was now seated. They began to describe the exhaustion their family had endured since losing Ladawn.
LOSING LADAWN MORGAN
On March 27, 2017 Ladawn Morgan, 19, was sitting on her friend’s porch enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon in Winston-Salem.
She had been visiting her family the week earlier and was all set to go back to Virginia where she would continue her studies to become a medical assistant.
“She really did like helping people . . . she was loyal,” April Warren said as she reflected on the bright future her daughter had.
Around 2 o’clock, a group of people began to gather around that porch Morgan sat on along Rich Avenue. Within minutes a fight broke out and gunshots went off.
Out of all the places it could end up, one of the bullets hit Morgan in the stomach. She fell to the floor as her friends rushed to try and save her life.
Her alleged shooter ran away, doing his best to dodge the countless witnesses that had seen the unspeakable thing he had just done.
“I was sitting at home when I got the call,” Michael Warren explained. He is Morgan’s uncle. He explained how on that day, two years ago, he had no idea what exactly was going on. The only thing he knew is that he needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
As he stepped through the front doors of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, he was screamed by multiple metal detectors, police officers with wands, and security persons who lined the halls of the medical wing his niece was staying it.
“We are were just ushered into this waiting room where we waited for a long time,” he explained as he argued with himself as to exactly how long he and his family had waited for doctors to come and let them know what was going on.
“We saw about three doctors,” April eventually interrupted Michael’s thoughts.
“Of course, when you see all of that in the movies, you know something bad is about to happen,” Michael continued.
As Ladawn’s family waited, hoping for a miracle Ladawn’s blood pressure began to drop. Within a few hours of being hit by a bullet, Ladawn died.
An excited young spirit on the verge of a personal milestone, quickly dimmed by a random act of violence.
“We’re just numb. We’re numb,” April explained as her eyes stared directly into the kitchen at the brown plates. Michael nodding in agreement.
TWO YEARS LATER
For the past 730 days, the family of Ladawn has woken up with hope that today would be the day that police would call them with news that her killer had been caught.
“The last update we got was 6 months ago,” Michael said as he leaned in closely over the table.
As for what that update was, he hesitated for a moment and said, “that the guy who they [think] did this has lawyered up.” Meaning unless witnesses come forward, or new evidence presents itself, investigators work is limited.
“I’m convinced a lot of people saw who did it,” Michael said as he closed his fist tightly and rested his fists on the table. “And know who did it, but they’re just too afraid to come forward.”
And for the closure this family now desperately needs, that all rests on the shoulders of witnesses.
“This date is always hard . . . this, family gatherings, and her birthday,” April said. When asked what they do on the anniversary of Ladawn’s murder, April explained that it’s just a day that haunts them. “Her friends gathered though,” April said as she began to laugh.
“That they did,” Michael said too as he joined in the laughter.
Ladawn would have been 21 this year, a year that is a defining one in the lives of most people. Her and her friends were extremely close, her mother began to explain. She pointed to her shoulder and drew the word loyalty with her finger.
“She was a loyal person, and that was important to her and her friends. They all got tattoos with the word - on their arms.”
Today, not only would Ladawn be 21, she’d also be an aunt to a newborn baby niece. “What was done . . . it’s like dropping a pebble in a pond. The ripple effects are [impacting] the family for generations to come,” Michael stressed. “We have young kids in our family who love talking about their Auntie Ladawn but tense up because they don’t.”
“Know how to talk about it,” April finished.
The thought of not knowing, without a doubt, who her killer was also adds an extra weight onto April’s shoulders. A weight that appears with every new shooting that’s announced in the Triad. “It feels like it did the day that Ladawn died . . . every time.”
For Winston-Salem Police, Ladawn’s murder is one of more than 30 unsolved homicides in the city over the past 20 years. But, for her family they don’t want to become another number.
As for making sense of it all - “I haven’t even thought that far,” April said, with a blank expression on her face. “I just can’t. I can’t get past that part. I don’t think anything can come of it until he’s locked up. Until them I’m just stuck.”
A feeling of being stuck, that also glues her family to the hope that there will one day be justice for their daughter, niece, future aunt, and future medical assistant.
Anyone with information is asked to call Winston-Salem Crime Stoppers.