Eighty-one Richmonders had died by another's hand in the city last year as Style went to press Dec. 29. Some were young and some were old. Not all were saints. Not all were sinners.
"You go to scene after scene after scene and each one is different, but you recognize that a mother has to be told that her child is dead at every single one," Richmond Police Department Major Peggy Horn says.
Working at nearly all the city's murders last year, Horn witnessed plenty of horrific scenes: "You build walls, but when you walk away you think, my God."
Like Dec. 12, when she arrived at the Morningside Apartments complex. There, Brandon Barrett, Kanaun Barrett and Randolph Cannon had each died from a gunshot wound to the head. None of the victims had lived to be older than 23.
All three, in society's eyes, were sinners: All three had criminal records. Police have classified the crime as drug-related, Horn says, noting that this incident joins 24 other murders in 2006 considered drug-related.
"These were not saintly kids, but again, does that matter?" she asks. "That's the question I always ask, does that matter? It doesn't to their mother."
At least one of those three young people was a saint to someone. Family members say Cannon doted on a young daughter who will continue to miss him and ask for him.
Sin and redemption aren't the only things Cannon and the Barretts may have shared with 63 others who were killed in Richmond in 2006. They were also black. As always, the city's black population bore the brunt of the city's homicides.
Many of their deaths probably received little more than a passing grunt of acknowledgment from most Richmonders who may have skimmed the back of the daily newspaper over a cup of morning coffee.
"We become immune to when victim A was killed on this random street corner," Horn says, "and that doesn't affect me." She laments these "routine" victims.
As is always true, some victims of 2006 put themselves in the wrong place for the sake of love or family ties. Six of this year's victims were killed in domestic disputes by a husband, wife, brother or partner. Of those, three were women.
Some murders are more senseless than others: Thirteen people died as the abrupt conclusion to an argument.
Some were young. The Harvey girls, Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4, were the youngest.
Joseph Seamster didn't live too much longer. He died at age 15. A total of eight victims were younger than 18.
Twenty-seven victims were between 20 and 29. Twelve were women, three were Hispanic and 11 were white. One was Asian. The oldest victim was 78.
Not all news is bad, Horn says. The city boasted, for "the second or third year in a row, just amazing closure rates." Of the 81 murders, 60 cases are already solved.
At press time, the city's murder count was just two behind last year's final tally, 14 fewer than in 2004. But as sure as death, the last days and hours of the year left open the possibility of a final grim statistic. S