Mom: Slain daughter was trying to reclaim life

AP News
Posted: Jan 08, 2013 8:27 PM

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — One of four women found fatally shot inside a Tulsa apartment was staying at the crime-plagued building with a friend as she tried to get her life back together, her mother said Tuesday as police asked for the public's help in solving the murders.

Misty Nunley, along with 23-year-old twin sisters Rebeika Powell and Kayetie Melchor, and Julie Jackson, 55, were found dead Monday by police. No arrests have been made, and investigators have released no other details — including possible suspects, how the women knew each other or why they may have been targeted.

But Nunley's mother, Cheryl Nunley, said her 33-year-old daughter had befriended Powell and had been staying with her on and off for the past week. She said she called her daughter nearly every morning to check in, and spoke to her Monday just hours before the women were found dead.

"She had positive people back in her life," Cheryl Nunley told The Associated Press, holding back tears while sitting with family and friends in a tiny apartment a few blocks away from the crime scene.

"She's not perfect. She ran around with some people she shouldn't have been running around with, but she was getting her life back together."

Tulsa police spokesman Leland Ashley said Tuesday that detectives and officers were "beating the bushes" to figure out what happened at the apartment, where police also found an unharmed 3-year-old boy. Police said he was taken into protective custody but released no other information.

"Right now, we have no clear-cut suspect," Ashley said, urging anyone with information to come forward.

"I don't want to strike fear in the community tonight, but we do have an individual or individuals who murdered four people," he added. "Do we know if there was a motive, like a jealous lover? We don't know that. We can't say if it was random or if someone knew (the victims)."

Relatives and neighbors have told Nunley's family there may have been a romantic spat between one of the women who lived at the apartment and a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. Police wouldn't comment on those rumors.

Hillary McGuire, the former stepsister of Powell and Melchor, told the AP she had lost touch with the sisters over the past couple years but remembered both as "the nicest girls."

"I hope to God they find whoever did it and lock them away forever," she said.

Messages left by the AP at phone numbers believed to belong to other relatives of the victims weren't returned Tuesday.

The four women were found dead in a unit at the Fairmont Terrace Apartments, a gated but rundown complex in south Tulsa's Riverwood neighborhood where residents say crime is common. The complex has a nighttime security patrol and curfew, but police believe the killings occurred during the day Monday. Police said they received a 911 call reporting the shooting around 12:30 p.m.

Cheryl Nunley said she didn't know the other three women or how they knew each other. She said Misty had been estranged from her family but was working to repair the relationships and get reacquainted with her own 19-year-old daughter, Shondelle.

"She last called me Sunday night," recalled Shondelle. "She told me she was proud of me."

Cheryl Nunley is convinced that more than one assailant was responsible for the killings, saying her daughter would have fought any one attacker "to the death."

"I don't know anybody who was mad enough at my daughter to do that to her," she said.

Crime-scene tape had been removed by Tuesday afternoon at the apartment complex, where bed sheets or cardboard hang as improvised draperies in many windows behind a black wrought-iron gate. The guard shack is empty and signs read "Curfew 10 p.m. for everyone, everyday" and "Photo ID required to be on property." Three of the units are burned out and boarded up with plywood.

Tulsa police said there were two murders at the complex last year, and residents of the neighborhood say gunfire and break-ins are fairly common.

"We're in the eye of the storm," said Charles Burke, a 48-year-old construction worker who lives across the street but didn't hear the shootings. "You're on your toes. You can't be too careful."

Jamie Kramer, a 28-year-old mother of two young children, has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years. She said crime seems to come in cycles and that things had been pretty quiet for several months until Monday.

"It escalates and goes back down, it escalates and it goes back down," she said.

Alexis Draite, a 20-year-old who recently moved to the area from Oklahoma City, also said she didn't hear gunshot Monday. She said she has a routine: "Lock the doors, lock the cars and don't stay outside longer than you need to."