While 35-year-old Michael Madison sits in a jail cell accused of multiple murders, friends and family of his alleged victims are mourning their loss. The bodies of Angela Deskins, Shetisha Sheeley, and Shirellda Terry were found last week in trash bags near Madison’s East Cleveland apartment. Ideastream’s Brian Bull attended several events this weekend honoring their lives, and has this report.
On Friday, about a hundred people gathered at the corner of 146th and St. Clair Avenue to celebrate the life of 18-year-old Shirellda Terry. She disappeared after leaving her job at an elementary school. Her body was found a couple weeks later inside a garage just down the steps from Michael Madison’s apartment.
Terry’s face – framed with wavy bobbed hair, and glasses – smiles from countless flyers posted on streetlights.
The event’s drawn everyone, from bikers to clergy. Baptist minister Pia Hoffman says Terry’s family is managing the best they can.
“First of all, your child’s been murdered. And then to be put in a garbage bag and thrown away like a piece of garbage, it’s hard," says Hoffman. "But through prayer and having support from family and friends, they’re really doing well.”
The deaths have caused sorrow…and anger across East Cleveland.
But Hoffman says she’s against the death penalty for Madison.
“As a minister, I have to be real. Our resolution is, that he gets his life back right with God. That he repents, and he repents to the families.”
Meanwhile, East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton says the community can now relax…a little.
“We believe that the threat is not only isolated, but we believe the threat is off the streets," says Norton. "And that’s important in this situation, because any individual who is capable of killing three women in less than two weeks, that’s somebody that we need off the streets immediately.”
About three miles away, the tone is quieter but no less reverent for Angela Deskins.
Killed at 38-years-old, Deskins was found in the basement of a vacant home just a few hundred feet away from where Terry’s body was found.
Inside a funeral home on Lakeshore Boulevard, friends and relatives stand near her casket, as early photos of her in pigtails and cradling babies are shown on a screen.
Catana is Angela’s younger sister. She says Angela was a guardian to her.
“When I was three or four, she was going to Catholic School…and she would dress up as a nun, and she would teach me numbers, and letters. And it was so cute!" recalls Deskins. "Because she made learning fun. Even though I was so young, I looked forward to that every day, I looked forward to spending time with her.”
Sunday afternoon saw people gather at the Empowerment Church for a fundraiser and memorial service for all three East Cleveland victims. East Cleveland City Councilman Mansell Baker urged residents to stay in constant contact.
“Check on one another…if it has to be a text message that says, `Hey, I’m going from Point A to Point B, and if I don’t call you by the time I get there, come looking for me…”
Organizers called for prayers and vigilance in the wake of the murders.
Tanya Robinson Williams is an evangelical Baptist minister, and representative for Shetisha Sheeley’s family. She remembers Shetisha as a strong, independent woman.
Williams admits one hard truth about incidents like these….
“We can’t prevent it. And that’s the saddest part," says Williams. "Because just like there’s God, there’s Satan. Just like God has people, so does he. But what we can do is make it harder, and make less victims out there….because we can be mindful.”
For now, many here in East Cleveland say they are grateful.
Grateful that Michael Madison is behind bars.
Grateful that the community has united to help in the investigation.
And grateful that events like these allow them to open their hearts.
At Angela Deskin’s memorial service, Catana Deskins speaks to her departed sister….
“Angie I love you. I love you so much," she says, her voice wavering with grief. "You’re the best sister a girl could ask for. And I will love you forever, and I will always miss you.”