Andrew Dys

Despite ‘fresh leads’ murder of Rock Hill football coach’s niece remains unsolved a year later

Liz McKnight and William Cureton are the aunt and uncle of murder victim Latoya Cureton, pictured in framed photo. The family has held two community demonstrations in the year that her murder case has remained unsolved. File photo by Andrew Dys
Liz McKnight and William Cureton are the aunt and uncle of murder victim Latoya Cureton, pictured in framed photo. The family has held two community demonstrations in the year that her murder case has remained unsolved. File photo by Andrew Dys

The past year has been unkind to the Cureton family. Yet somehow, this group perseveres, and firmly believes that someday, the murder of Latoya Cureton will be solved.

Again.

That hope comes as Rock Hill police say after a year there are “new, fresh leads,” in the killing.

Charges against the person initially suspected in the crime were dropped, leaving the family that had hoped the case was solved with loss and anguish. But hope prevails.

“We continue to pray, to persevere, to stay together, for this case to be solved by the Rock Hill Police Department,” said William “Q-Rock” Cureton, Latoya Cureton’s uncle and a longtime assistant football coach and teacher assistant at Northwestern High School. “We are together on this. We have not stopped believing there will be an arrest.”

Again.

Latoya Cureton, 27, was shot in the back Aug. 5, 2015 behind a vacant house on Green Street just a few blocks from Rock Hill’s city hall and police department. Police initially asked the public for help in the crime, after Cureton’s body was found by a passerby. Cureton had past problems with the law and was on probation at the time of her death, and her family said she had battled substance abuse with the support of the family.

Then she was found dead.

The family did not yield as the investigation went on, even holding in September a march for justice for Latoya and other victims of violent crimes that drew more than 130 people.

Then in October, Rock Hill detectives charged Robert Daquan Johnson, a convicted felon at age 19 who had just gotten out of jail, with the murder. Johnson denied involvement.

The Curetons believed the case was over and lamented the pain they had gone through.

But the case wasn’t over.

By late December, prosecutors dropped the murder charge against Johnson with the right to restore charges, saying there was not enough evidence against Johnson. Prosecutors wanted more investigation done by police.

Johnson did not leave jail, though. Federal prosecutors indicted him for being a felon caught with a gun, based on arrests in both September 2015 and March 2016, according to federal indictments in the case. Just last week, Johnson pleaded guilty to the gun charge from September and faces up to 10 years in federal prison when sentenced later this year, according to federal prosecutors and court documents.

Still, that leaves the death of Latoya Cureton unsolved.

Capt. Mark Bollinger, spokesman for the Rock Hill police department, said that detectives are still working the case and in recent weeks, have received new information in the investigation. Bollinger declined to say what that information is, calling it “new, fresh leads in the case.”

The Cureton family is working on starting a foundation in Latoya’s name and continues to advocate against crime and gun violence. They held a second march in May.

“We still want what we wanted from when we heard that my niece was gone – and end to violence and justice for Latoya,” William Cureton said.

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