Hillsborough shooting kills one

A 30-year-old man dies on a block that police say is known for drug- trafficking problems

Staff WriterNovember 29, 2005 

Police are investigating a Sunday night shooting that left one man dead in the town's Fairview neighborhood.

It is Hillsborough's second homicide this year, and both happened near Fairview. The two homicides do not appear to be related, Police Chief Clarence Birkhead said.

Jeffrey Mark Duke, 30, was shot three times in the chest shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday.

Police say the shooting happened on a block known for drug deals. That block already was slated to be a topic at Monday's town Board of Commissioners meeting for a parking and congestion problem that residents attribute to the drug traffic.

"You hear quite a bit of gunfire at different times, a whole lot of it sometimes," said Dorothy "Mama Dot" Johnson, Fairview's community watch block captain for Homemont Avenue. "People walk up and down the streets all night long."

Before Sunday night, however, things had been more quiet than usual. The traffic had cleared up over the past few weeks, Johnson said.

That night, Johnson and her family had just pulled into their driveway across the street at 555 Homemont Ave. from out of state, and were unpacking the car when they heard the nearby shots.

"Then somebody hollered and said, 'He got hit,' " she said. Someone went to see whether anyone needed help, and Johnson called 911, she said.

Duke died on the street near the mailbox of 570 Homemont Ave. Police think he was driving a work truck for a Durham siding and gutter company he may have done work for. The driver's side door was open, but the engine was not running when police arrived.

He didn't appear to be armed, Detective Scott Nicolaysen said.

Duke was originally from the Bahama area of Durham County, said his aunt, Ann Duke. He had two children.

Ann Duke said her nephew was the youngest of six children, but as a teenager he was sent to live with foster parents because his mother was institutionalized and his father couldn't handle raising them. Both of his parents have since died.

"Jeff was a sweet child but didn't have the guidance that children need," Duke said.

His foster mother loved him and still kept in contact with him, Duke said, but he got into drugs and after that just couldn't stay out of trouble.

Things got even worse for Jeff last year after his wife died of cancer in 2004, Ann Duke said. After spending a few months in prison for an impaired driving conviction, Jeff Duke was released this past summer and stayed with Ann Duke's daughter for a while.

"I don't know why he was there, but I know he wasn't there to hurt anybody," Ann Duke said. "I don't even know anyone who hates Jeff."

Hillsborough police are asking anyone who might have information about Sunday's shooting to call Nicolaysen at 732-9381, ext. 28.

Staff writer Jessica Rocha can be reached at 932-2008 or jessica.rocha@newsobserver.com.

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