Hours before, Ladson had just finished fixing dinner — hamburgers, white rice and pork and beans.
Everyone cracked jokes at the table as they planned to watch two movies they had rented — A Thousand Words and Ghost Rider 2.
Just before meeting up with Tillman on the porch, Ladson looked at 3D ultrasound images of her unborn son on the computer. Earlier that day, Scott was designing a baby shower T-shirt online.
“After eating, she went on the computer to look at photos,” Scott said. “When Krystal passed by, I was about to get in the shower. “
Scott said he quickly put his clothes back on and walked Ladson outside. On the porch, he hugged Krystal and went back inside to take the shower.
“As soon as I turned the knob, I heard the gunshots. Screams,” he said. “I ran to the hallway and see her holding her neck. Blood came out her mouth, out of her neck. I saw her lips turn purple . . . her veins thickening . . . I saw her die.”
Scott said Ladson had been living at his home for about two years. She would go back and forth from her parents’ house.
Ladson leaves behind her 6-year-old daughter Zhariya Williams, who will remain in the custody of her grandparents. Scott fears that because he is not her father, he won’t be able to spend time with her.
“I’m not her dad, but she calls me daddy,” he said.
Ladson’s mother said she is anxious to get answers from investigators.
“I need these devils off the streets,” said Sharron Ladson. “People should feel comfortable knowing that you can sit on your front porch and not have to dodge bullets.”
Gerard Ladson, Ladson’s father, says he “cries a little less every day.”
“You try to forget, and then you see all the photos of her. It’s hard,” he said. “Now,” he says of his granddaughter, “I have to raise another butterfly.”
On a recent Friday, family and friends gathered at Ladson’s cousin’s home. More than 50 people wore T-shirts in memory of Ladson. There was a collage of Ladson’s portraits with a cross and white dove. Music blared as people approached a donation box to help pay for the funeral costs. They lit Tiki torches. Pink and white balloons adorned the single-story house’s front yard.
“We let go of the balloons so they can reach her and the baby,” said Sheffield, Ladson’s sister. “Her daughter, my niece, asked me yesterday if she can call heaven to talk to her mommy. What do you say to a 6-year-old?”
Many of the baby items that had been purchased for the baby shower by family members and friends will now go to others in need.
“We are putting everything in boxes,” Sharron Ladson said, as she took a deep breath. “Most of the baby clothes will be donated to Goodwill or friends with children.”
Scott, the father-to-be, said everything around him feels “undone; everything was left standing still.”
“We never got to use the stroller, never got to have the baby shower, wear the shirts, have the baby,” he said.
“My family is dead. I don’t sleep. I stay staring in the dark until the sun comes up. I wake up, and then reality hits all over again.”