PALMETTO — There were pink birthday balloons and flowers.
And tears outnumbered laughter as friends and family gathered Friday at Skyway Memorial Gardens on what would have been Crystal Johnson’s 20th birthday.
Susan Moore, Johnson’s mother, said she wanted to gather at Crystal’s final resting place on her birthday in hopes of reminding people of her July 12 slaying.
“I don’t want it to die down. Someone out there has to help find the other guy,” she said, staring at the small grave markers of Crystal and Crystal’s baby daughter, Lariah Faith, decorated with balloons reading “Birthday Girl,” as well as Christmas decorations.
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A ceramic cupcake sat on the plot, too.
“My daughter was in her own home where she should have been safe,” Moore said.
At least one suspect remains at large, according to authorities, in the case in which two men, Everrick J. Houston, 28, and Gregory Kennon, 22, have been arrested in connection to Johnson’s fatal shooting.
“She wanted to be a mother more than anything,” Moore said. “I just want Crystal to know how much we love her and miss her.”
According to reports, at 1:24 a.m. three men kicked in an apartment door at Desoto Village Apartments, 3810 Fifth St. E. Shots were fired, striking Johnson once in the chest. She died shortly after. Johnson was six months into her pregnancy. Lariah Faith died eight hours after being delivered.
Johnson was home with her older sister, her boyfriend, Lawrence Funsch, and Moore at the time of the shooting.
Moore said she still doesn’t understand why her daughter was shot. “We don’t know. Some say it was her boyfriend. Some say they got mixed up and hit the wrong house,” she said.
Funsch was later arrested on drug possession charges stemming from that night. He attended Friday’s gathering, but declined to comment.
Houston is slated to go to trial on murder charges in April, and Kennon is scheduled to go on trial for murder in May.
Moore remains hopeful someone will come forward with more information leading to another arrest.
Anyone with any information can contact Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeff Bliss at 747-3011, ext. 2159, or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS(8477).