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Homicide victims' family reacts to arrests

Alva James-Johnson

ajjohnson@ledger-enquirer.com

From the files: Police announce the arrest of two men in the Short family triple homicide

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The family of three victims brutally killed in a Upatoi home expressed mixed emotions Wednesday in response to news that two suspects were in police custody.

"They are surprised, angry and excited - if you can understand - that people have been apprehended and justice will be served," said Johnny King, the boyfriend of Shameika Averett, who spoke on the family's behalf. "The police department assured us that we would know before the public. And they did call us in to let us know that they had two suspects. They said more arrests would be made soon."

Averett lost her mother, Gloria Short, 54; brother, Caleb Short, 17; and daughter, Gianna Lindsey, 10, in the Jan. 4 slaying that occurred at Short's home. Short's husband, Robert, found the bodies when he returned home after a 12 hour shift at a local hospital.

One of the two suspects is Jervarceay Tapley, 17.  He lived with Short's brother, Robert Averett, and his grandmother, Margaret Williams, who was Averett's live-in girlfriend, said his mother, Rachel Tapley.

Robert Averett, 68, died of a heart attack a week ago, after learning of the homicides.

The other suspect is 19-year-old Raheam Daniel Gibson. Both suspects have been charged with three counts of murder, burglary, two counts of theft by taking a motor vehicle and possession of a knife during the commission of crime.

King said Police Chief Ricky Boren misspoke Wednesday when he said Tapley was a cousin. He was just a close friend of the family and not related to any of the victims, he said.

Police notified the family of Tapley's alleged involvement a few days ago, King said, and asked them to keep it "on the hush hush."

"We were shocked because he always seemed to be such a good person," King said of Tapley. "I've dealt with him on several occasions. I've never seen any type of aggression or a jealous spirit in him. But, again, I'm only around him in partial terms. I'm not around him all day, every day."

"I knew he grew up on the rough side of town," he said.  "What he did when he went home, I have no idea."

He said Tapley stopped by a relative’s home to pay respects to the family a day after the gruesome crime occurred. 

"I actually embraced him and hugged him the day after he killed my little girl," said King, who lives with Shameika Averett in a Fort Mitchell home where Gianna  also resided. "That's the thing I'm having a hard time dealing with. He was right in my face the next day like nothing ever happened. I could tell he looked a little distraught when I was with him. But I just couldn't believe it."

"I guess it would have been kind of weird if he didn't show up, everybody else was there," he said. "Trying to throw us off, I guess."

King said Tapley, also known as 'Weedy," had never been in trouble, as far as he knew.

When asked why the house might have been targeted, King said: "All I can think of is jealousy, and just pure evil."

"We can probably assume that Caleb was privileged and had a lot more than him," he said. "All I say is, 'jealousy,' because he didn't have as much as Caleb had."

In an earlier interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, Tapley's mother, Rachel Tapley, claimed her son wasn't involved in the incident. She said he was at home with Robert Averett and Williams, and learned of the slayings after receiving a news alert on his phone.

King said the family has heard her claim, but doesn't know all the details of the case.

"The police are handling that,” he said. "They didn't want to disclose too much to us because we don't want to mess up the prosecution."

The situation has affected the relationship between the two families, King said. On Tuesday, he saw some of Tapley's relatives from a distance at Robert Averett's funeral.

"But pretty much the family is staying away from each other," he said.

King said Robert Averett had a poor health condition and had difficulty coping with the death of his sister, nephew and grandniece, which probably led to his fatal heart attack.

"And who knows, maybe he knew something about Jervarceay,” he said. “And maybe he got so upset that night. We don't know."

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