Mystery of Murdered Man’s Death Ripped Family Apart

·8 min read
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Courtesy Moore Family
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Courtesy Moore Family

On the evening of June 29, 2006, Laray “Mookie” Moore and a friend chilled and listened to music when he got a call from his wife Natacha about their 15-month-old son, Laray Jr., recalls his mother Yvonne.

“His wife told him to go pick up the baby who was at his aunt’s apartment,” Yvonne said in a phone interview. “He was always there for his children.”

Nearly two years after his release from a 15-month prison stint on drug charges, Laray’s life was moving in a positive direction, Yvonne and other relatives told The Daily Beast. In 2005, Laray and Natacha got married. The same year, she gave birth to Junior. Around the same time, he rekindled his bond with his then-14-year-old daughter Breyona Sampson from a previous relationship.

When he wasn’t working his blue collar job at a paint warehouse, Laray spent his free time taking Breyona, his nephew and their friends on frequent trips to an amusement park, teaching them how to drive and making them watch Christian sermons on YouTube. The oldest of three brothers, Laray also supported his middle sibling, professional boxer Shakha Moore, by being one of his cornermen.

“He looked out for everybody,” Yvonne said. “He had an ear and shoulder for anyone who wanted to talk or cry. He loved his family to death.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Laray Moore and his mother Yvonne Moore on his wedding day.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy Moore Family</div>

Laray Moore and his mother Yvonne Moore on his wedding day.

Courtesy Moore Family

Shortly after 11 p.m., a few minutes after his aunt strapped Junior into a baby carrier in the backseat of Laray’s four-door sedan, a male in a dark hooded sweatshirt and armed with a pistol approached the 33-year-old father, who was sitting in the driver’s seat, Laray’s relatives said. Their account was confirmed by Norwalk Police Det. Daniel Serio, who said the suspect shot Laray three times in the upper body.

“Norwalk Police dispatch received numerous 911 calls,” Serio said in an email to The Daily Beast. “When patrol responded to the scene, Laray Moore was unresponsive.”

An ambulance transported Moore to Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut, where he was pronounced dead, Serio said.

More than 16 years later, Moore’s murder is one of more than two dozen unsolved murders in Norwalk. Even with a $50,000 reward, no witnesses with detailed information about the shooter have come forward, Serio said. Moore’s death ripped apart his family, creating more than a decade of tension between his widow, Natacha, and his blood relatives, who believe she isn’t saying everything she knows about the incident.

Natacha, who’s given numerous press statements and interviews since Laray’s death, initially agreed to speak to The Daily Beast, but she did not respond to follow up phone and text messages after bailing on an interview scheduled on July 28.

In a 2019 television interview, Natacha said yes when asked if she had a really good idea of who shot her late husband. As recently as last month, in another television interview, Natacha claimed that witnesses are too scared to talk with homicide investigators. “I need to know why,” she told News 12 Connecticut. “I hope this person knows that, ‘don’t ever be comfortable.’ Because one day that knock is going to come on that door. I can promise you that.”

Norwalk Police homicide investigators have ruled out Laray’s widow as a suspect. “Natacha Moore has been interviewed multiple times by various detectives,” Det. Serio said. “At this time, she is not a person of interest.”

In a phone interview, Breyona, Laray’s now-30-year-old daughter, told The Daily Beast that she believes her father was set up. “As I grew older, I’ve done my own investigation,” Breyona said. “I’ve had people come to me, hinting that somebody close to my dad did it.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Laray Moore and his daughter Breyona Sampson when she was 15.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy Moore Family</div>

Laray Moore and his daughter Breyona Sampson when she was 15.

Courtesy Moore Family

Yvonne said her daughter-in-law exhibited odd behavior the night Laray was killed. At the time, the couple lived with her. Natacha was in her house when she found out from another relative about the shooting, Yvonne said. She found it strange that Natacha hadn’t been the one to tell her.

“If something happened to my son, how do you not tell me anything?” Yvonne said. “I got dressed and went outside to get in the car with my boyfriend at the time. Natacha was just standing there. We get in. I am just crying and crying and nothing is being said.”

The following day, while discussing who would want to kill Laray, Natacha told her to find out who was the last person he spoke to and “maybe that is the answer,” Yvonne said. “My son was on my T-Mobile family plan,” she said. “When I looked at the call logs, she was the last one to have a conversation with him.”

Natacha also had Laray cremated without consulting her and other family members, Yvonne alleged. Laray’s wife moved out about two months after the funeral service, one of only two times that she saw Natacha cry about her son’s death, Yvonne said.

“It’s 16 years later and she hasn’t ever had a conversation with me about how I am doing or what she was feeling,” Yvonne said. “I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t understand it.”

Breyona and her cousin, Shakha Moore Jr., said Natacha intentionally distanced herself from Laray’s family, and kept most of his belongings and photos. “The only things my dad was able to keep were my uncle’s mink coats,” Shakha Jr. said. “My uncle had bags full of clothes and sneakers. None of us got any of that. No pictures either.”

And since he was cremated, the family can’t even go visit a grave site to help them cope with the grief, Shakha Jr. said: “I just have memories and his teachings about doing the right thing.”

The 28-year-old nephew remembers his uncle would take him, Breyona and their friends on road trips to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey. “I think my uncle is the reason I am not afraid to go on roller coasters,” Shakha Jr. said. “We did that a lot. We don’t do that anymore and I feel him not being here is the main reason why.”

After Laray died, the Moore family drifted apart, Shakha Jr. said. “I don’t want to think that is the reason we don’t come together as often as we used to,” he said. “But it’s a touchy situation. It’s been more than a decade and we still don’t know why it happened. And we are not sure we will ever find out.”

When she was around 22 years old, Breyona said she confronted Natacha and was told by her father’s widow that “a friend of my dad” was responsible.

Cold-case detectives have floated a theory that Laray was killed as retaliation for the murder of 33-year-old Fulton Raines, who was shot about two weeks before Laray outside an Elks Lodge in Norwalk. “This is only a theory and has never been confirmed,” Serio said. “I don’t feel comfortable discussing the connection of any of these two murders as it could impact the investigation.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Fulton Reyes was killed just weeks before Laray Moore.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Norwalk Police</div>

Fulton Reyes was killed just weeks before Laray Moore.

Norwalk Police

That is despite Norwalk Police putting out a statement in 2017 which stated, “Moore’s homicide is believed to be retaliation for the Fulton Raines homicide which occurred on June 11, 2006 at 1:50am at the William Moore Lodge.”

Laray’s mother Yvonne dismissed the Raines theory. “That night Fulton got murdered, my son was sitting in his car outside the club when it happened,” she said. “When he got home, he told me that he saw the boy get shot and started praying for him. The police even came by and spoke to him. Laray didn’t have anything to do with that incident.”

Since his death, Breyona said she tries to avoid talking about her father because it causes her a great deal of grief. While reminiscing about Laray and the positive influence he had on her, Breyona broke down in tears.

“He would take me to church and would make me watch two hours of sermons on the computer before I could go outside and play,” Breyona said. “He would also make me read the newspaper so I could be up on current events.”

Like her cousin Shahka Jr., she has fond memories of going to Six Flags, as well as Laray letting her drive his Acura Legend under his careful supervision. “We would ride everything at the park,” Breyona said. “He started teaching me how to drive before he went to prison. He would put me on his lap so I could steer. And once I was tall enough to put my foot on the pedals, he let me drive. He was an all-round great dad.”

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