For Carolyn Bates, the past three years have been filled with questions of “why” and “who.”
Why would someone kill her son Larry D. Sanders Jr.? Who did it?
Sanders, who was 28, died July 10, 2010 when a burglar came in through the front door of his Merriwether home and fired several shots. One bullet hit Sanders in the chest, killing him, according to The Augusta Chronicle archives.
The case is still unsolved.
Bates’ youngest son called her to let her know that Sanders had been shot. It’s not the call any parent wants to get, she said.
“It was one of those late night calls,” she said. “At the time, he had told me that (Sanders) was dead, but I wasn’t trying to hear that.”
Sanders, the oldest of Bates’ two sons, was the father to two girls, both 7 now.
“He was an excellent father,” said Bates. “He was a fantastic brother.”
The past three years have been tough for the family, especially when questions remain, she said.
Each year, Bates has held an event to keep her son’s memory alive and to bring awareness to his case.
In October 2010, Bates held a candlelight vigil for her son’s birthday and held another vigil in 2011. In 2012, she organized a stop-the-violence rally in Edgefield, S.C.
This year, she organized the CSRA Awareness Event: Helping Families Get Closure. The event was held Saturday at Lions Memorial Field and brought together families who have lost loved ones to violence and, like Bates, still have questions of “why” and “who” and are seeking closure.
They talked about their family members and asked those attending if they know anything, to tell law enforcement.
Representatives from Crimestoppers and North Augusta Public Safety were present and spoke about the role the community plays in helping to solve crimes.
“I wanted to do something different,” said Bates. “…One of the things that I know is that somebody knows something. You can’t tell me that there’s not one person who doesn’t know something. There’s more than one who knows something. Not just in my case, but in all these other cases that are unsolved. Somebody knows something.”
The moderator for the event, the Rev. Cheryl Sanders, expressed the same thoughts with those in attendance.
“I don’t care how small you think it is. I don’t care if you think it’s nothing to be concerned about. Tell what you know and then tell other people, ‘tell what you know’,” she said.
Tyesha Simmons also urged people to speak up. Simmons’ brother, Travis Smith, was fatally shot Sept. 29 at Ridgeview Manor Apartments off Bradleyville Road. His case is also unsolved.
“As a citizen, it’s your right, your duty to tell, especially if someone’s been murdered,” she said, adding that when people don’t speak up, it’s providing criminals with a “blanket” to continue committing crimes.
There are anonymous ways to share information with law enforcement, said Crimestoppers representative Jeremy Hembree.
In South Carolina, people can call 888-CRIMESC; text a tip to CRIMES, put TIPSC in the beginning of the body of the text followed by the tip; or go to www.sccrimestoppers. com.
Anyone who contacts them is given a number and is only known as a number, said Hembree.
“With that, they can give information and no one knows who they are. The benefit of that is that it gives them a sense of security knowing, ‘I can give this information and no one will know that I gave it’,” he said.
Regardless of how important, or unimportant, the tip may seem, people are encouraged to share it, he added.
“Even if it’s something small, it may be that itty bitty tip that bridges the gap for law enforcement between what they know and what they don’t know,” he said. “It gets them on the right path of what they need to know.”
It can also lead to closure for families of victims in unsolved cases, said Bates.
“This is not a game,” she said. “It does not feel good when you don’t know what happened to your child or who did it. It’s traumatic.”