Durham police investigate murder-suicide

STAFF WRITERMay 8, 2011 

— Police continue to investigate an apparent murder-suicide in a quiet north Durham apartment complex.

Police say 25-year-old Tyrone Xavier Hester shot his 22-month-old daughter Tyaijah once before turning the gun on himself.

The incident happened shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday in a grassy area behind a building at the Hampton Forest Apartments.

Hester was dead when paramedics arrived on the scene, police said. Tyaijah Hester was transported to Duke University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Tyrone Hester did not live in the complex on Chalk Level Road, police said, but was there visiting relatives.

The well-kept complex is in a safe neighborhood with lots of children, said Rashad Roberts, who heard the gunshots from her apartment.

"This is a surprise to everybody; this is truly a tragedy and a shock," said Roberts, 31. "I've never seen anything like this before in my neighborhood."

After Roberts heard gunshots, she went to investigate.

She said she found the body Tyaijah Hester bloodied on the ground. She told the child to hang in there. "I kept saying, 'Hold on baby, hold on, don't die,' " Roberts said.

Residents in the apartment complex, including some of Hester's relatives, came outside to find the child shortly after, Roberts said.

"We were all yelling and crying and screaming, trying to get the paramedics there," Roberts said.

Calls to investigators and members of the Hester family were unsuccessful.

Roberts said she had never seen Hester or his daughter or family members around the complex before.

Tyrone Hester's relatives told Roberts that he had been arguing over the phone with Tyaijah's mother, but Roberts didn't know what the argument was about.

The back of the apartment building, where Hester and his daughter were found, is within sight of a playground and faces a wooded tree line.

Allen Washington, who also lives in the complex, was sitting down to eat when he heard the shots.

He ran outside to the sound of screams and saw both bodies lying in the grass next to a handgun.

Washington, 58, had seen Hester and his daughter before but didn't know them.

He couldn't remember prior shootings in the neighborhood.

"I'm overcome with grief," he said. "You don't forget something like this."

Staff photojournalist Robert Willet contributed to this report.

katelyn.ferral@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8746

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