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Two deaths since July leave neighbors shaken

Marvin Springs, 61, a longtime resident of Willowbrook Condominiums off Willowbrook Avenue in Rock Hill, says he is concerned about the safety of his neighborhood. One man was killed and his girlfriend was critically injured in a nearby shooting Sunday morning.
Marvin Springs, 61, a longtime resident of Willowbrook Condominiums off Willowbrook Avenue in Rock Hill, says he is concerned about the safety of his neighborhood. One man was killed and his girlfriend was critically injured in a nearby shooting Sunday morning.

From his front-porch swing overlooking Kimbrell Street, Terry Sims can see a neighborhood gripped with anxiety after two of its own were murdered this summer.

Only a stone's throw away sits the condominium where authorities say gunshots Sunday morning took the life of 19-year-old James "O'Neal" Boulware and sent his 20-year-old girlfriend, Cassandra Nicole Jones, to the hospital.

If he adjusts his gaze slightly, Sims, a 30-year resident of Kimbrell Street, can see the gables of a porch on Cummings Street where police say Amanda Rea Beaty was shot and killed when she answered a knock at the door July 29.

That's two deaths. One month. Same neighborhood.

"All this happening right in front of you -- it's kinda mind bogglin'," Sims said Monday. "My daughter told me I oughta put my house up for sale and move outta here. But this is home. What am I gonna do?"

Around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, Boulware was killed in his bedroom at 472 Kimbrell St. by two gunshots to the head, said York County Interim Coroner Sabrina Gast, after performing an autopsy Monday.

Police said the suspected weapon, a small-caliber handgun, had not been found by Monday evening. Investigators believe the same weapon was used to shoot Jones. She remained in critical condition at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte on Monday. The couple's toddler is staying with relatives, authorities said.

Lt. Jerry Waldrop of the Rock Hill Police Department said a burglary at Boulware's home four days before his death could be one of many potential clues.

According to a police report, Boulware called police around 3:30 a.m. Aug. 22 to report a burglary at his home. He told police at least two individuals invaded and searched his home for about 30 minutes while he and Jones pretended to be asleep, the report states.

Boulware and Jones told police the suspects said, "I found it," while searching through the bedroom, the report states. The suspects left the scene with $200 from a pants pocket, Boulware told police.

Investigators were unable to locate the intruders because Boulware didn't know which direction they fled, the report states. But police did find signs of forced entry at the back door and fingerprints on a shoe box, the report states.

But Waldrop said no direct connection has been uncovered between the burglary and the shooting four days later.

"There's no indication at this point that it's related," he said. "But we're not ruling that out."

Waldrop also said investigators don't believe Sunday's shooting and the unsolved death of Beaty one month ago, the first two homicides in Rock Hill this year, are related. Waldrop noted there is no evidence the neighborhood is targeted for violent crime.

"I think it's purely a coincidence," he said.

Meanwhile, Sims and his across-the-street neighbors at the Willowbrook Condominiums say their once-quiet neighborhood is beginning to feel unsafe.

"It's so scary to see these young people shoot each other up," said Marvin Springs, a 61-year-old Willowbrook resident. "When I first moved here, it was nice and quiet. Now it's changin.'"

Sitting on his back porch Monday, Springs said he has noticed more unfamiliar faces in the area lately as cars come and go at all hours of the night. The news of Boulware's death was especially hard for the Rock Hill native to swallow because he used to work with Boulware's mother, a former nurse at Piedmont Medical Center.

"It just tore me up," he said. "My mother and his grandmother used to sit around and snap peas and talk about the old days."

A few doors down, Mika Cochran, a seven-year Willowbrook resident, said Boulware had recently talked about enrolling at York Technical College. "He was the sweetest person you could find," she said.

Cochran said the recent violent crimes have reminded her you can't be too careful, even in a neighborhood where she thought everyone got along.

"I lock all my doors now. ... It's scary over here," she said. "To be honest with you, all this makes you want to go get a gun license or just move."

Many residents were too frightened to talk about the killings out of fear of retaliation.

"You think I want my name out there? I might be next," one neighbor said. "I've got a loaded .30-30 (rifle) by my bed to make me feel safe."

Waldrop said police are boosting their presence in the area to calm any fears.

"Any time there's an incident like this we try to increase patrols as much as we can," he said. "We're trying to put residents at ease."

Anyone with information about either shooting can call police at 329-7200 or CrimeStoppers of York County at (877) 409-4321.

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