Larry McCoy grew up on tiny Powderhouse Street. He’s lived there all his 53 years. Including two years ago, when, around 7:30 at night, McCoy was in the small duplex apartment of his girlfriend, 41-year-old Elonia Ware. Ware had come home from a long shift on her feet at the McDonald’s restaurant on Dave Lyle Boulevard and had just fixed McCoy hotdogs, with onions. She was tired.
“She always fussed that I didn’t need the onions,” McCoy recalled.
McCoy was standing next to the chair getting ready to take a bite.
“Pow, pow, the shots came right through,” McCoy said. “You don’t forget something like that.”
One of the bullets that came through the wall hit Ware in the chest. Another pierced her face next to her left eye. Elonia Ware died right there in that chair after her work shift, next to a terrified Larry McCoy.
“And now here it is two years and nobody has ever said a thing about it,” McCoy said. “Nobody was ever put in jail for killing her. It just ... it ain’t right.”
Just eight weeks before the shooting that left Ware dead, the apartment was riddled by bullets in another drive-by shooting. No one was hit the night of Dec. 2, 2011, when the shots were fired through the windows, but police never solved that shooting, either.
“That night I was just yelling to get down,” McCoy said of the first shooting.
And then it happened again, with Ware’s life leaking out of her body through the awful bullet holes in her chest and face.
“She didn’t deserve to die like that,” McCoy said.
Rock Hill Police, the night of Ware’s shooting two years ago, tried to track the shooter with officers and K-9 dogs but had no success. Detectives started working the case, interviewing neighbors, people who heard the shots and commotion, but the detectives couldn’t find the shooter. They said from the beginning of the case they did not believe that Ware was the intended target of the shooting.
Still, two years later, the case remains unsolved.
Police say it is not for lack of investigation that the case has not been cleared. Detectives have not put the investigation in “cold case files” and still are following leads, said police spokesman Officer Mark Bollinger. After two years, police still say Ware was not the target of the bullets. Police have not said who investigators believe the target was that night or who may have been the target the month before.
Elonia Ware, who before 2005 had no record, not even a traffic ticket, was arrested for selling drugs in 2005. She was sentenced to prison plus five years probation after pleading guilty. McCoy, the boyfriend, said Ware had worked at McDonald’s for two of those years after prison. But police have said for two years that the investigation does not point to Ware as a target for anyone.
“No doubt she was an innocent victim,” Bollinger said.
Ware had two sons: One, 20 years old at the time, who was home the night of the shooting and another who police say was not. Darelle Ware, 19 at the time, was arrested on gun and drug charges just days after his mother was killed. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served – several months. Federal prosecutors claimed that he was in a gang.
Another man who was with Darelle Ware when he was arrested , Jadaryl “Young G’ Hinton, 24, also was a gang member, according to federal prosecutors. Hinton, a convicted felon, had a .45-caliber handgun tucked into the waistband of his pants, along with 19 baggies of marijuana. Hinton had prior convictions from 2010 for crack and marijuana possession with the intent to distribute and was convicted of having the drugs near a school. In June he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for being in possession of the weapon while a convicted felon.
Powderhouse Street is a small, dead-end street that sits at the south end of Green Street in Rock Hill’s South-Central neighborhood. To get to Powderhouse, you have to go south past the idlers and the daytime beer drinkers of Green Street. There are plenty. To say there is not drug activity nearby would be preposterous. Some people, whom police allege are affiliated with a gang named for an address on Green Street where an associate died, were arrested in sweeping arrests just two weeks ago.
But the neighborhood is a lot more than a few. Many of the people who live there, at the far end of Green Street, are retirees who have lived there for 30, 40, 50 years or more. The homes are humble – but they are paid for. Many of the houses are well-kept. The houses were bought when a few thousand dollars meant the American Dream. Long before drugs and guns were a problem there. Over the weekend, during the daylight hours, people walked up and down the street. A gave barber cuts in a driveway.
Nearby, though, are shuttered houses. Some vacant lots. Long stares at strangers.
Powderhouse Street was home for Elonia Ware. This little street will always be where a woman sat in her living room after a day’s work, after she had gone to jail and served what judges and prosecutors call a “debt to society,” then died after a drive-by shooting intended to kill somebody else.