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Three killings in three months: Southlea neighborhood hoping for answers

Neighbors are still shocked by a string of three killings in a span of about three months, from late September to early January.

Posted: Apr 7, 2021 12:36 PM
Updated: Apr 8, 2021 4:01 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Many people use the same words to describe Southlea, a working-class, southside neighborhood full of single-family homes.

"It's a quiet neighborhood," says Robin Mathew.

"It's kind of a quiet neighborhood," says Rose Rigdon.

So they were shocked by a string of three killings in a span of about three months, from late September to early January.

The victims were 28-year-old Amber Barrett, 46-year-old Marc Sherwood and 40-year-old Michael Holmes.

Only one person has been arrested: Nike Haynie faces murder charges in Sherwood's death. But Haynie argues the alleged stabbing was in self-defense, according to court records.

"Of course everybody would like to have answers to anything that's going on, to like to know more about it, but we haven't heard anything and no information has come forward, so at this time, nobody seems to know," says Mathew, who has lived in the neighborhood for 29 years. "Lafayette used to have three murders in a year and now we've had three in one neighborhood in a very short period of time. It's kind of surprising."

That's changed the atmosphere of the community, located south of Beck Lane between Ninth and 18th streets.

"Afraid to open their doors. Afraid to do a lot of things around here and I can't blame them," says Rose Rigdon, who has lived in the neighborhood for 52 years. "I remember a time when we didn't even have our doors locked in this neighborhood, but it's all changed now."

But Lafayette Police Department says the numbers tell a different story, that there's very little violent crime in the area, that the homicides weren't connected and there's no ongoing threat to the community.

"It's a safe neighborhood … there's no place in Lafayette that you can't go and be safe and live your life and do what you need to do," says LPD Sgt. Ian O'shields.

Police records show low crime numbers in Southlea, but more crimes happened in 2020 than the prior two years.

"The data shows that it's a safe neighborhood, there is no spike in crime there and, again, those homicides were just unfortunate incidences," O'Shields says.

O'shields says the spate of violence was a coincidence.

"There's no connection between them," he says. "They're unfortunate and unnecessary crimes that occurred but they were not linked."

O'Shields also says the slayings weren't random acts.

"The separate incidents, the individuals involved all knew each other, and so, as far as the safety of the neighborhood, there's no concern there," he says.

LPD has ramped up patrols in the area and detectives are still working the cases.

"You just hope that the police are on top of it, working on it," Mathew says.

Months later, neighbors are trying to move on.

"Who knows? They may never find the person … you can't just be scared to the point where you can move or leave your home either," Rigdon says.

LPD is urging residents in Southlea and across Lafayette to reach out about crime in their area. Contact LPD by phone at 765-807-1200, online at http://lafayettepolice.us/ and on social media.

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