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Lesslie neighbors on edge a week after resident shot in her home

On quiet, rural Autumn Lake Drive, where nothing bad is ever supposed to happen, one resident of more than 20 years had this to say Tuesday, about how an unsolved shooting a week ago - just a few doors down - has left her family in fear:

"My granddaughter is afraid to go to the bathroom by herself in the dark," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "We want this shooter caught!"

On Nov. 9, in the predawn hours around 5 a.m., 59-year-old Melva Sexton was shot several times.

Signs of forced entry into the home she shares with her husband, Richard - a welder who left at 4:30 a.m. to go to work - were found on an outside door, police said.

Sexton was hospitalized for the gunshot wounds but has been released and is staying with family members.

But not in the home she has lived in for so many years.

"She's probably afraid to go home with the shooter still out there, and who can blame her?" said the neighbor down the street. "They need to find out who did this, and fast. People are scared."

Another neighbor, 82, said the shooting has people on the street - a circle road with a pond in the middle - on edge.

"Until this is over, I don't know how anybody can sleep," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

Detectives with the York County Sheriff's Office have canvassed the area since the shooting, including two pre-dawn mornings when neighbors up and around that early could be asked about what they saw Nov. 9, said Lt. Mike Baker, sheriff's spokesman.

More early-morning canvasses are planned for this week.

The sheriff's office put a flier in the mailbox of each home on the street a few days ago, asking for information and trying to ease any fears.

"We have talked to many people," Baker said Tuesday. "We will continue to be out there. We want people to know that we will leave no stone unturned in this case."

Despite the fact that no one has been arrested, police continue to maintain that the neighborhood is safe because of the increased presence of officers since the morning of the shooting - and the canvasses by detectives and crime scene analysts.

For a third neighbor - who said her car was looked into by deputies with a spotlight twice in the past few days as she left for work around 5 a.m. - the unsolved crime remains traumatic. Every stranger and strange car that rolls by is a potential danger.

"We just want to go back to normal out here," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "I know the police are working hard. They were out here Monday morning with their spotlights and searching and looking at the house again.

"We want this solved so our neighbor can feel safe to come home - so we all can go back to normal."

Sexton worked the past six years in the cafeteria at Oakdale Elementary School, where she had started an account to help the poorest kids pay for lunch. Angie Crowder, Willie Burris, Donna Thomas and kitchen supervisor Kay Wells have had to work a woman short for a week.

"We all love her," said Crowder.

"Nobody should have this happen - especially not our Melva. They need to catch who did it."

At Oakdale, the hundreds of students are all going to sign a banner to be sent to Sexton. A lot of kids have asked about her, as the four ladies have hustled to do the work meant for five.

"A lot of the kids don't know our names," said Wells, "but it just about breaks your heart when a little boy asks you, 'How is that nice lady who got hurt doing?'"

Wells, who is close with Sexton even outside of work, said she is recovering with family.

"She's doing better each day," Wells said, "but the emotion for all of us has gone from sadness and worry when this happened, crying, to madness now over what this shooting has done to such a good person, her family, and anyone who loved her.

"People are mad that Melva Sexton was shot. I am one of those people."

People are mad in the neighborhood, too.

This is the kind of place where someone cuts the grass for neighbors on vacation or during sickness - and it is done for free. Neighbors cut the Sextons' grass this past summer, while Richard recovered from a lung operation.

Sexton survived being shot at least seven times. For the people of this neighborhood, the quiet is back a week after the shooting - and word of her recovery is getting around.

But the safe feeling of decades is gone - at least for now - until a shooter is caught.

"Not knowing anything just makes people worry and wonder what happened and why and can it happen again?" said one neighbor, a man who has known the Sextons for more than 20 years and is proud to be a friend - but too afraid to be identified. "This crime happened to a good lady. This is a good family.

"They don't deserve what happened to them, and the people around here don't deserve to have to worry about it, either."

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