The gallery at the Recorder’s Court on 10th Street was packed Friday as two suspects in a Jan. 4 triple homicide appeared in court on charges of murder and other crimes.
Spectators included relatives of victims Gloria Short, 54; her son, Caleb, 17, and her granddaughter Gianna, 10, as well as the family of 17-year-old Jervarceay Tapley, a family friend accused of the slayings at the 3057 Bentley Drive home.
Also charged in the case is Raheam Daniel Gibson, 19. Both suspects are charged with three counts of murder, two counts of auto theft and one count each of burglary and using a knife to commit a crime. They both pleaded not guilty during Friday’s hearing and were denied bond.
Sheriff’s deputies escorted Short’s husband, Robert; daughters, Shameika Averett and Lindsey Roberson; and other family members into the courtroom about a half hour before the hearing began. The family occupied two rows at the front of the gallery and listened intently as Detective Alan Malone described a gruesome scene in which all three victims were brutally beaten and Gloria Short and Gianna Lindsey were stabbed. He accused Tapley and Gibson of breaking into the house for items and clothes belonging to Caleb.
Family and friends sniffled as they heard the details, and their faces were streaked with tears. Johnny King, Averett’s boyfriend, spoke to the Ledger-Enquirer on behalf of the family after the proceedings. He said some family members were especially disturbed by how their loved ones were killed.
Yet, there was “a sense of relief and excitement because we know that these suspects won’t be getting out, and that’s the main thing that we wanted - no bail, no bond,” he said. “And we feel confident that the police department will make other arrests in the future.”
King said the family went to the hearing to show solidarity on behalf of the three victims.
“We wanted to see the suspects, look them in the face and let them know that the loved ones that they took away had a large support of family and friends,” he said. “We plan on being there every step of the way.”
He said the family would be donating money in memory of their loved ones for cancer research, which Gloria Short supported; a college scholarship for students at Shaw High School, where Caleb was enrolled; and tuition for students at a private school at Kingdom Metropolitan Centre, where Giannna was part of a dance team.
Tacara Hemingway, a family friend, said she was stunned by what police described at the hearing.
“I’m shocked, I’m saddened, my heart is heavy and we just want justice,” she said, leaving the courtroom. “I’m just shocked that the person that’s being accused is so close to the family.”
Also at the hearing were Tapley’s mother, Rachel Tapley; his father, Christopher Williams; and his grandmother, Margaret Williams, who arrived in a wheelchair. Williams is the girlfriend of Gloria Short’s brother, Robert Averett, who died of a heart attack after learning of the slayings. Jervarceay Tapley lived with the couple at their 4125 Calhoun Drive home and grew up as a friend of Caleb.
Margaret Williams said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer that Tapley was home with her at the time of the slayings watching DVDs up in his room. She came to the hearing to support him.
“It’s all a surprise to me,” she said of the charges. “I don’t understand.”
Rachel Tapley said her son was close to the Short family and it’s hard for her to believe he would do the things he’s accused of.
“He been knowing them for years, they never had no problems out of him,” she said. “He cared about them, just as much as they cared about him. He even went to the funeral home with his grandmother for Caleb and them and then he went to his granddaddy’s funeral.
“My child is very shy,” she said. “I don’t think my child would have the nerve to do something like that and still be around the family. ...It’s just hard to believe that he would have that mindframe.”
She said Robert Averett had just given Tapley $200 the first of the month, she gave him $50 and his grandmother gave him some money. So he really didn’t need any funds.
“They took him to Plato’s Closet and let him buy some clothes and everything,” she said. “If the Short family, or Miss Gloria, did something for him, they did it out of the kindness of their heart. It’s not like we were calling them asking for haircuts or clothes because my child never went without and he ain’t homely. He’s very well-groomed and very well taken care of.”
She said Tapley was living with Averett and Williams because he didn’t like the school system in Valley, Ala., where she lives. He was a student at Spencer High School and optimistic about the future.
“He was just excited about getting what he wanted because he wanted to just finish the last two years in ROTC and enlist in the Marines,” she said.
Rachel Tapley said her son and Gibson grew up as childhood friends in the Benning Hill area, but Gibson started getting into trouble and they parted ways. She said the charges against Tapley are unfounded and based on long-standing animosity between the two families.
“They didn’t like the fact that my son’s grandmother was dating Robert Averett,” she said. “They always had bad blood. They never have accepted her. Period.”
King said he isn’t aware of any animosity between the two families. And while he finds the details of the case upsetting, he believes police have a solid case.
“I’m not shocked and surprised at anything,” he said. “You can’t say what someone will or won’t do. I didn’t know him all that well, just seen him with the family from time to time.”