Family doesn’t have money for homicide victim’s funeral

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comSeptember 14, 2013 

— Burying Johnny Lee Ellison – Rock Hill’s first homicide victim this year – will cost his family more than they can spend.

His funeral costs exceed $3,000 and Ellison, known as a hard worker and dedicated father, did not have any life insurance.

On Saturday, relatives and friends gathered at Ellison’s aunt’s home, frying fish, cooking hot dogs and selling chicken to raise money for Ellison’s funeral.

Ellison, 34, of 432 Oates St., died on Green Street Thursday night after police say two brothers shot and stabbed him when Ellison won a card game. David Denorris Williams, 32, and Jaris Williams, 29, were charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

After shots went fired, police found the Williams men walking away from the fray. They tussled with officers and were charged with resisting arrest. After speaking with witnesses police charged them in Ellison’s slaying.

Authorities spent much of Friday searching a patch of woods on Green Street for the murder weapon. As of Saturday they had not found a weapon.

Arthur McCoy last spoke with Ellison, his brother-in-law, on Wednesday. They’ve been friends for 20 years. Ellison, McCoy said, had a knack for “leaving the bad behind him and looking forward to the good.”

“That’s what I loved about him,” McCoy said.

Joining McCoy as chef for the day was Bobby Thomas, who went to Northwestern High School with Ellison.

“He got along with people,” Thomas said. “He loved football. His son loves it too.”

Ellison’s son is 10. Family members said his father’s death has not fully affected him yet.

It has affected his aunt, Linda Evans. She buried her daughter two months ago. Now, she has to bury her nephew. The family held a fish fry to pay for her daughter’s funeral.

“This, it’s hard,” she said. “I miss him. I’m going to miss that smile...that laugh he had. He was just silly. I wish he was here.”

Relatives put donation jars at the Saluda Discount store on Saluda Street and the Friendly Mart on Hagins Street. A jar is also planned at Southern Salads & Sandwich Co., where Ellison worked for about three years after spending 15 years as a dish washer and kitchen shift supervisor at the former Thursday’s Too restaurant on Herlong Avenue.

Family members plan to meet again at 19 Wright St. on Sunday. Ellison’s funeral will be at Nazareth Baptist Church in Rock Hill.

“What they did to him” was senseless, said Mary Boler, an aunt. “They took him away from his son. They deserve to be punished.”

Stop the violence

At Armory Park on Saturday about close to 50 people gathered under the shade of a picnic shelter to listen to music spun by twin 15-year-old brothers Cardan and Caymen Williams and poet Lamone Wright, a former inmate who rhymed about evading stereotypes and learning from the past, at an event sponsored by Stop The Violence.

Kwasi Barber, who has a criminal record but said he is trying to change his life, said he’s not content with waiting for other people to come into his neighborhood to make a change.

“We need to keep our neighbors more accountable,” he said. “We always say we want our kids to be safe and have a safe environment to play in. But when something happens, we go in our houses” and lock the door.

“The adults in the community need to step up,” he said.

Neighbors getting more involved, said Dequonna Jennings, owners of Yours Truly Events Planning, could be the first step in preventing incidents such as the one on Green Street. “We need to get back to loving your neighbor,” she said.

Stop the Violence has held events in Rock Hill’s Boyd Hill, Flint Hill, Workman and Sunset Park neighborhoods since the group formed in May. Community members tell their concerns while other speakers and musicians deliver positive messages.

C.T. Kirk, pastor of Sanctuary of Life Outreach Center and a Stop the Violence staff member, said he hopes the events show youth “everybody’s not going to be a basketball player or football player.”

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