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UPDATED: This story was updated Dec. 1 to reflect additional homicides that took place in Greater Lansing and to add comments from family members.
LANSING — For the second year in a row, Lansing has surpassed its homicide record — and the year isn't over.
In 2021 so far, 34 people in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties have been killed, compared to 26 in 2020 during the same time frame. Prosecutors ruled one of those homicides in 2020 to be self-defense.
Lansing has had 24 homicides this year and surpassed the 2020 total of homicides in October.
'Kids are killing kids': Lansing breaks 2020 record for number of homicides in city
Eight of the victims this year were teenagers. Two were children, just 3 and 5 years old when they were shot.
The people killed in homicides aren't just numbers; they're fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. These are their stories.
If you are a friend or family member of Melissa Murray, John Velten, Adrien Price, Corey Dalton, Carl Florian, Cashad Pops, Elton Johnson Jr. or Antonio Taylor and would like to share stories, memories or photos of them, please contact reporter Kara Berg at email@example.com or 517-377-1113.
Emiliano Hernandez, died Jan. 3
Emiliano Hernandez, 93, was a longtime parishioner of The Maranatha Bilingual Church. He loved going to church with his son, Emil Hernandez Jr., said Melinda Mendoza, the church administrator. He sat in the same spot in the front row every week, she said.
He was dedicated to family and faith, according to his obituary. He loved listening to his "Tweety" birds and Spanish music, along with watching western movies and football.
"He was a storyteller, often re-sharing how he fell in love with his wife (again and again) and how he migrated to Michigan," according to his obituary. "He was one of the greatest souls you could ever meet."
Hernandez was critically injured during a home invasion Dec. 30. He died Jan. 3. Micah Davis is charged with murder in his death.
Darrell Gaines, died Jan. 6
When Darrell “Dee” Gaines, 37, was around children, it wasn’t unusual to see him crawling on the floor, dancing or playing dolls with them.
“He became whatever they were,” Beverly Evans, his stepmother, said. “Dee had a gift and he loved children.”
Gaines extended that same attention to his younger sister, his family and friends, Evans said. He always remembered people’s birthdays and never forgot a holiday, she said.
Gaines worked his dream job at the radio station POWER 96.5 and as a phlebotomist at CSL Plasma in Lansing, where he was known as the one with the "easy touch," according to his obituary. Gaines enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school and served in Iraq and South Korea and received numerous medals and ribbons of honor.
But cooking was Gaines’ true passion, Evans said. He was always cooking up some concoction, especially if it involved barbeque, she said.
Gaines was fatally stabbed Jan. 6 in Lansing. Troy Jenks is charged with murder in connection with his death.
Thomas Collins III, died Feb. 13
Thomas "Tommy" Collins III, 25, loved people and wanted to make them laugh, his mom, Anne Collins, said. He was athletic and an artist; he designed many of his own tattoos, she said.
Anne Collins recalled a time when her son was younger and he met a child who didn't have shoes in his sister's trailer park. Tommy Collins went and bought him a pair of shoes to wear, she said.
He was a great student and played several sports, including football, baseball, basketball and wrestling, which was his favorite, she said. He started wrestling at just 3 years old.
Tommy Collins also enjoyed go-kart racing, which he did competitively. He wanted to try something new, his mom said, so he, his father and his grandpa — all three Thomas Collins — took up go-kart racing.
He loved hunting with his grandfather and fishing with his mother, according to his obituary.
Katelyn Smith, died Feb. 14
There was nothing Katelyn Smith, 24, loved more than her two young children. She had a third on the way at the time of her death and was excited, her mother, Cheryl Bolduc, said.
“I want (Katelyn's children) to know who their mother was," she said. "Their mother loved and adored them…Those children were her life.”
Smith was loving, beautiful, opinionated and outgoing, Bolduc said. She was willing to do anything to help anyone. She gave money to people who are homeless and bought food for friends if they needed it, Bolduc said.
She enjoyed driving with loud music and "singing along and acting like a fool," Bolduc said.
Police say Smith was killed Feb. 14 in Lansing Township by her longtime partner, Michael Sczepanski, who allegedly shot her in their home. He has been charged in her death.
LeeAnn Hawkins, shot on March 21
LeeAnn Hawkins, 23, was kind-hearted and loving, her mother, Mary Person, said. She had become a mother for the first time about a year before her death and adored her baby boy.
"She was one of the ones, you'd walk into a room and her smile would just make everyone feel a whole lot better," Person said.
Hawkins enjoyed spending time with her large family, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas when they would all gather together to celebrate, Person said.
Her aunt, Liza Person, described Hawkins as "the light of everything." She wants people to remember her niece as being loving, generous and happy.
Hawkins was shot March 21 and died less than a week later. Ashley Person is charged with attempted murder and prosecutors said they intend to ask for an upgraded charge.
Melissa Murray, killed Feb. 2, found deadin March
Police say Melissa Murray, 33, was shot and killed Feb. 2 at a Lansing home. Her body was found in March and Cory Coddington is charged with her death.
Darrell Smith, died March 31
Darrell Smith was outgoing, kind and talented, his friends and family say.
The 16-year-old taught himself how to read sheet music and play the saxophone and piano, Taja’h Smith, his older sister, said. He always would help his friends or family if they needed it.
"He loved to make music, he loved to play sports," Taja'h Smith said. "He used to do everything. ...There was not nothing he couldn't do that he put his mind to."
Taja'h said she'll miss her brother's bright smile, the sweat droplets that appeared on his nose anytime he got hot and his hair, which he dyed half red. The little things.
"He was outgoing, crazy as heck," Taja'h said. "That little boy knew how to put a smile on somebody's face. He could brighten up a whole stadium with that goofy smile."
Darrell, who was a junior at Sexton High School, was shot and killed March 31 in Lansing. His murder remains unsolved.
John Velten, found dead April 9
John Velten, 58, was found dead April 9 in his Lansing Township home. His son, David Velten, is charged with murder in connection to his death.
Adrien Price, died April 11
Adrien Price, 19, loved his friends dearly and was always someone they could come to to talk, his friend Evie Reegs said. Reegs fondly recalled the times when she and Price would sit on the phone talking at 5 a.m. when neither could sleep. They talked every day, she said.
"He was a good guy," Reegs said. "He wanted love for everyone. He didn't deserve it."
Price's obituary described him as a "funny, fun-loving big kid," someone who was compassionate, trusting and loyal.
"He was always joking around and playing pranks on family and friends," according to his obituary. "He was passionate about music and enjoyed writing his own music as well. Family was always number one for Adrien. He was a great big brother and loved playing with his cousins as well."
Price was shot and killed April 11 in Lansing. Rodolfo Luiz is charged with his murder.
Vivian Zwick, died April 13
Vivian Zwick, 5, was a smart, caring, loving child, her grandmother, Diane Lechleitner, said.
"[She was] just precious," Lechleitner said.
She liked to dance, do art and work in the garden, Lechleitner said. She always had a smile on her face. She loved her parents and spending time with her grandparents.
Alex Haas, a family friend whose oldest child is the same age as Vivian, said she "was such a light."
Vivian was killed April 13 along with her father, Joe Lechleitner, and her brother, Anson Zwick in her home on Old River Trail in Delta Township. Their murders remain unsolved.
Anson Zwick, died April 14
Anson Zwick, 3, was a little shy and reserved, but was mechanically inclined, even at his young age, family friend Alex Haas said. Anson was just like his father, Haas said.
Both Haas and Anson's grandmother, Diane Lechleitner, said Anson liked taking things apart to see how they worked.
"Anson loved to go out and work with his dad," Lechleitner said. "If he was out changing a tire, Anson was right out there watching him. ... He loved being out with his dad."
Joe Lechleitner, died April 13
Joe Lechleitner's "whole life" was about his kids, his friend Alex Haas said. The 48-year-old man was a loving father and a talented carpenter, and built custom features into his homes for the kids, like steps that pulled out from underneath the sink and a mini kids kitchen underneath the kitchen island.
Lechleitner was a "mechanical genius," Haas said, and grew up being called "Joe Genius." He didn't do leisure activities, Haas said; all his time was spent working on projects or with the kids.
If Lechleitner had an idea, he was able to build it and it was beautiful, his mother, Diane Lechleitner said. He was always there for his family.
"Joe loved all his children very dearly," Diane Lechleitner said. "He was very family oriented."
Larry Fields, died April 21
Family was everything to Larry Fields, 60, his friends and family said.
"He left a spot in everybody’s life that he touched or talked to," Priscella Trevino, Fields' niece, said. "Anyone who touched paths with him was family to Larry. Larry meant everything to his family and family meant everything to him."
He loved talking to anyone — even strangers, Trevino said. He was happy and cheerful and enjoyed all aspects of his life, she said.
"Everybody knew Larry because he walked everywhere," Victoria Wiltrout, one of Fields' seven sisters, said. "He met no stranger... If he walked down the street, he would say 'hi' to everyone."
He also loved participating in the Special Olympics, his family said. He played every sport he could: basketball, floor hockey, soccer, softball, bowling.
Fields was shot and killed April 21 in Lansing when he was walking home from a family birthday party. Brandon Gearhart has been charged with his murder.
Harley Owens, died May 1
Harley Owens, 39, was an artist and loved drawing, poetry and music. He was always looking forward to his new tattoo, according to his obituary.
Jessica Rutz, Owens' sister, said her brother was a jack of all trades. He could do anything and do it well. He's helped Rutz redo their landscaping and paint their deck.
“He was a pretty handsome fella, but very quiet,” Rutz said. “Girls kind of flocked to him…He had a great sense of humor.”
Her brother had a hard life, Rutz said, and got involved in drugs, but he wasn't a bad person. After he got out of prison in June 2020, his goals were to start over and find a good, steady job, and reconnect with his kids, who were his biggest pride.
"Harley loved his friends like family, listened to his music loud, ate his food spicy and washed it down with a Coke," according to his obituary. "He was a darn good cook, loved his Hondas, insisted that his hat, t-shirt and tennis shoes be spotless white and his pants baggy. He was a goofball at heart and never passed up a bonfire with friends or the opportunity to lend a hand or help someone smile."
Owens was killed May 1 in Lansing with his girlfriend, Kelsey Coon-Lennon. Isaiah Gardenhire has been charged with their murders.
Kelsey Coon-Lennon, died May 1
Kelsey Coon-Lennon, 29, had a good heart and always wanted to make others smile, said Michelle Bott, one of Coon-Lennon's friends.
Before her death, she was fighting to get back custody of her young son. Coon-Lennon wanted her life back and loved her son, Bott said.
"Kelsey was a bright light, a bold, vibrant and an adventurous woman that was always finding the humor in life," according to her obituary.
Corey Dalton, died May 5
Corey Dalton, 28, was killed May 5 in a home in Lansing, police said. His body was found early May 7 outside Woodbridge townhouse, police said. Marissa Gilbert and Sharnae Cook are charged with his murder.
Kian Miller Jr., died May 16
Kian Miller Jr. was a clown, his mother, Devonne Brown, said. He loved to make people laugh and was always smiling, she said.
"He loved to smile," Brown said. "You won't be sad when he comes in...He was the life of our party."
He didn't have kids of his own, but loved them. His family called him "step-daddy" because he always was taking care of other people's kids, Brown said.
His sister, Lia'sia Orr, said there was never a dull moment with her brother around.
"He was everything you could ask for and more," Orr said.
Kian Miller Jr., 22, was shot and killed May 16 in Lansing, along with Timothy Minor III. His murder has not been solved.
Timothy Minor III, died May 16
Timothy Minor III, 23, was a smart and caring man with an infectious smile, his mother Judy Booker said. He was a big jokester with a heart of gold and his family meant the world to him, she said.
Despite being paralyzed in a shooting several years ago, Minor had big dreams, Booker said. He wanted to pursue a sports journalism degree and dreamed of being a sports commentator, she said.
One of his biggest motivators was his daughter, Skyelar. Even from his wheelchair, he helped teach her to ride her bike, Booker said.
"No matter the circumstances Tim always remained loving and caring, never letting his current situation define him," Booker said. "Tim was determined to walk again. He had finally began walking before his life was taken suddenly due to gun violence."
Marshawn Beard, died June 14
Marshawn Beard, 16, had dreams of being a professional football player.
Just before his death, he was looking forward to getting back to conditioning for Everett High School's football team.
Keora Downell, Marshawn's cousin, said Marshawn adored his big family and always was willing to babysit for his nieces, she said. His bond with his siblings was "unbreakable," Downell said. He set aside time to check on his grandparents often and loved spending time with them.
"Marshawn is a treasure, as our grandmother often says," Downell said. "He is the baby boy of our bunch, and he is our pride and joy."
Marshawn and 19-year-old Damon Johnson were shot and killed near Rotary Park in Lansing June 14, police said. No one has been arrested in connection with their deaths.
Damon Johnson, died June 14
Damon Johnson, 19, loved his family more than anything — especially his grandmother and his mother, his family said.
Damon's five older sisters adored their "brother-dad," his mother, Nikole Smith, said. Despite being the youngest, Damon sometimes stepped into a father-figure role to hear his sisters' problems and offer advice.
Smith said her son's legacy will be the love he dealt to others. Even this week, people she didn't previously know have reached out to share stories and flooded social media with tributes.
Damon's family described him as a sharp listener with a keen sense for others' moods. He made time to listen to what others were saying without judgment, which made him a popular person to confide in, his family said.
Jemaris Leek Jr., died June 16
Jemaris Leek Jr. was caring and funny, and while he was quiet around people he didn't know, he became talkative around friends and family, his girlfriend Jalissa Adams said.
Leek, 17, played football at Everett High School. He loved to play football and be around his family, Adams said.
Leek was shot and killed just before 1 a.m. June 16 in Lansing. Jaydin Wilder has been charged with murder in connection with Leek's death.
Carl Florian, died June 19
Carl Florian, 79, taught Sunday School and was an active member at the First United Methodist Church in Eaton Rapids, according to his obituary.
He worked for the state's treasury department for 37 years before he retired, according to his obituary. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and editing the church's Lenten devotionals and his wife’s poetry.
Florian was killed June 19 in his home in Eaton Township. Andrew Paul, 23, has been charged with his death.
Cashad Pops, died July 5
Cashad Pops, 19, had "an insatiable thirst for fun and adventure in life," according to his obituary. He loved outdoor activities such as fishing and playing basketball.
He adored spending time with his two daughters and valued family above everything else, according to his obituary. He always tried to put them first.
Pops was killed July 5 at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and St. Joseph Street. No one has been arrested in connection with his death.
Ardis Davis, died Aug. 18
Ardis Davis, 24, was well respected, the kind of man who could go anywhere in town and be loved, his aunt Love Seay said.
"He had plans and goals for his life," Seay said. "He was out here living his best life."
Davis was shot Aug. 15 in a parking lot on Museum Drive in Lansing. He was in critical condition for several days before he died Aug. 18. No one has been charged in connection with his death.
Victor Clayborn, died Aug. 18
Victor Clayborn, 27, was a humble, loving man who made the best of any situation he was in, said his cousin Rodney Hodges Jr.
"He was a hardworking man. ...his goal was to give out the love he wanted in return," Hodges said. "Victor would come through and pick you up or help you out. He wasn’t stingy or selfish. ... He was one of those people who was always quick to help out and motivate."
Marquisha Williams, one of Clayborn's friends, said he was always happy to help out his friends and family and babysit their children.
Clayborn was shot and killed Aug. 18 in the 800 block of Edgewood Boulevard in Lansing. No one has been charged in connection with his death.
Alexis Brown, died Sept. 16
Alexis Brown, 24, was a social butterfly, just like her mother, according to her obituary. She loved spending time with her children, family and friends. She worked as a home health aide.
"She made friends wherever she went. Alexis was a kind, loving soul with a heart of gold," according to her obituary.
Brown and her mother, Michelle Roper, were killed Sept. 16 in Roper's house in the 1200 block of West Michigan Avenue. The father of three of Brown's children, Brion Reynolds, is charged with murder in connection to their deaths. Gavin Anspach and Monae Reynolds are charged with accessory to a felony.
Michelle Roper, died Sept. 16
Michelle Roper, 46, was a social butterfly who loved working and spending time with family and friends, according to her obituary. She worked at the Center for Optimal Health and Robinwood Landing Memory Care as a nurse, where she was loved by the residents and staff for being kind and considerate.
"She was kind, loving, giving, unmovable in protecting her family, and had a heart of gold. Michelle touched so many lives and will be missed by all," according to her obituary.
Anthony Davis III, died Sept. 20
Anthony Davis III, 17, was goofy and caring, someone who was always looking out for his siblings, friends and family, his cousin Nathan Johnson said.
He was the guy everyone liked, Johnson said. He enjoyed playing video games and helping his brother practice football, Johnson said. He also liked playing with toys with his younger sister. Davis was the oldest of four kids, Johnson said, and he always looked out for them. He was the big brother to everyone, his father Anthony Davis Jr. said.
Davis III was known for his "beautiful smile and compassion for others," according to his obituary. His father said he was a charismatic boy who "always made the situation brighter."
He was a senior at Waverly High School and a star football player, according to his obituary. He wanted to be an engineer, his father said.
Davis was shot and killed at about 2:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in the 3900 block of Hunters Ridge Drive in Lansing. No one has been charged in connection with his death.
John Sougstad, died Sept. 24
A social worker, school psychologist and educator, John Sougstad, 57, had decades of experience working with children and families, most recently as the assistant director of special education for the Jackson County Intermediate School District.
"He played a big role in looking for the best way to do interventions with special needs students to make sure they all get the same opportunities as every other child does," Kaci Babineau, the district's spokesperson, said.
Several colleagues described Sougstad as having a gentle and compassionate demeanor.
Sougstad was a four-time graduate of Michigan State University and a faculty member at the school's College of Social Science, where he taught classes on social work and special education.
Sougstad, his wife Barbara Sougstad and their son Ryan Sougstad, were shot and killed Sept. 24 on Bishop Highway in Windsor Charter Township. Their son and brother, Daniel Sougstad, is charged with their deaths.
Barbara Sougstad, died Sept. 24
Barbara Sougstad, 65, had a gentle, caring touch that "made her an Angel long before she gained her wings," according to her obituary.
She spent more than 30 years as a nurse and retired from McLaren hospital in 2019.
Outside of work, she cherished the time she spent on horseback, Ian Baese said. Baese works at Ride A Stride Performance Horses, a farm in Carson City that she visited.
"She always said coming to the farm was like visiting heaven on earth. Those who knew her knew she took heaven with her everywhere she went, dropping sprinkles of love, light and laughter. She will sorely be missed," Baese said in a text message.
Ryan Sougstad, died Sept. 24
Ryan Sougstad, 24, had a "kind soul, a great sense of humor and a huge heart," according to his obituary.
He loved being a father and going on walks, baking cakes and watching movies with his daughter, according to his obituary.
"Being a kind and devoted dad to Quinn was of the utmost importance to Ryan, and he did not disappoint when it came to genuinely loving and guiding her," according to his obituary.
Ryan was a graduate of Holt High School and attended Lansing Community College, according to his obituary. He enjoyed listening to music and playing disc golf and basketball.
Noah Sisung, died Oct. 22
Noah Sisung, 18, was easygoing and loved being around people, his sister Alex Sisung said. He was a supportive best friend, passionate about his interests, lived in the moment and hardly ever ruminated on negativity.
He loved being outdoors, she said. His truck was sacred, even more so after he removed its muffler and altered its steering wheel in such a way that pulling down on it lightly would trigger the horn. He enjoyed working on vehicles in general, also with his minibike, go-kart and riding lawnmower.
"He could always take something apart and teach himself how to put it back together," his sister said.
Sisung was shot and killed just after noon Oct. 22. He was unresponsive when police found him behind the wheel of his pickup, crashed into a tree at South Pennsylvania Avenue and Kendon in Lansing. A 13-year-old boy has been charged with murder in connection with his death.
Elton Johnson Jr., died Oct. 25
Elton Johnson Jr., 34, would go out of his way to make others smile, according to his obituary. He graduated from Sexton High School in 2006, where he played football and basketball.
"Jr touched the community; he always had a smile for you," according to his obituary. "He was a loving son, brother, father, cousin, nephew, uncle, and friend. Whatever he set out to do, Jr did his very best to do it well."
Johnson was shot and killed Oct. 25 in the 1500 block of Bailey Street in Lansing. No one has been charged in connection with his death.
Antonio Taylor, died Nov. 23
Antonio Taylor, 22, died Nov. 23 after being shot inside a clothing and footwear store at 4116 W. Saginaw Highway in Delta Township.
No one has been charged in connection with his death.
Reporters Craig Lyons, Krystal Nurse and Jared Weber contributed to this story. Contact reporter Kara Berg at 517-377-1113 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @karaberg95.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Violence plagues Lansing area. 34 have died in 2021 so far.