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Shooting of lunch lady at her Rock Hill home unsolved 6 months later

Melva Sexton’s pastor, Ronnie Helms, calls her surviving being shot seven times in November simply: “She had a miracle.”

But police might need a miracle, too, because the puzzling case of why anyone would go out to a rural street and break into the home where this 59-year-old lunch lady lived with her husband remains a mystery.

The shooting happened six months ago Monday. Investigators say they have ruled out some potential suspects, but are saying little else. For days after Sexton was shot in the pre-dawn hours, police canvassed the area at the same time – even conducting traffic roadblocks, all to no avail.

“We continue to investigate what happened in this case, and it is still a priority to find out what happened and who is responsible,” said Capt. Jerry Hoffman, spokesman for the York County Sheriff’s Office.

After a woman of similar age, 57, was shot and killed in a seemingly similar incident in Great Falls in rural Chester County just two weeks after Sexton was shot, police in both counties looked at the cases but found the shootings not to be connected, Hoffman said. The killing of Alfreda Wertz Hinson also is unsolved.

Sexton’s husband had left for work when she was shot, police said after the shooting. Several people who might have known Sexton’s routine were questioned, Hoffman said, and several were eliminated as having any connection to her shooting. He declined to elaborate.

Melva Sexton herself, who said she is still convalescing from the shooting, did not want to talk about being shot. She did say she is “so thankful” for all the prayers, cards and well-wishes she received from hundreds of people after the shooting.

Especially important, she said, were the cards and notes from the little kids at Oakdale Elementary School, where Sexton had worked for years in the cafeteria as a lunch lady.

“People have really been good to me, praying for me, and I appreciate it,” Sexton said.

Oakdale has not, and will not, forget Sexton, said Principal Neil McVann.

“I saw her a few weeks ago, and she is eager to get back someday,” McVann said, “and we are all eager to have Mrs. Sexton back with us.”

Fellow parishioners of Sexton at Roddey Baptist Church, where the Rev. Helms is pastor, have stuck with Sexton.

“Melva is back to church, but still seeing doctors, so it is up to us to be there for her,” Helms said. “The Lord protected her that day – of that I have no doubt. She had a miracle.”

Yet with an unsolved crime, some residents on the quiet street where the Sextons still live want answers.

People live out in the country for the safety and serenity, said neighbor Kevin Porter, who lives across the street and down a bit. The memory of those days when cop cars lined the street remains.

“We want this thing wrapped up, and we want to be told what happened,” Porter said. “The Sextons are our neighbors. People worried for them, and at the beginning, there was concern for neighborhood safety, too.”

The shooting prompted neighbors to start an informal association – not a homeowners association with dues and all that nonsense – but for people to get to know each other better. Neighbors have become names, and not just faces.

There were impromptu meetings and follow-up meetings about the crime. Many residents agreed to an extra few dollars per month on electricity bills so street lights could be put up on existing utility poles.

Pre-dusk walkers, common on the street, now share conversation instead of just a wave.

“It is a far more well-lit street at night, and we in general have a tighter sense of community,” Porter said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t want this case solved. Nobody knows what happened, still, after all these months.”

Immediately after the shooting, police said the neighborhood was safe. Law enforcement has maintained that stance, even though no suspects were ever named, and no motive for a crime was ever announced.

Police said that their canvassing of neighbors and talking to the Sexton family and others left law enforcement confident that there would be no other similar crimes – and there have not been.

Capt. Hoffman conceded that, “residents would like to know who is responsible, and that in understandable.”

Still, this street out in Lesslie, Autumn Lake Drive, as seemingly peaceful and nice as any street could be, remains the location of a bizarre, unsolved crime. A place where a woman approaching 60 was shot several times, yet survived.

For neighbors such as Porter, the hope lies with someone coming forward, and doing the right thing.