GARNER — Police are still trying to determine who killed a 31-year-old day care worker and mother of three who was shot in front of her apartment last week after attending her sons middle school basketball game.
Latoya McNeil and her mother, Angela Harding, 48, were both struck by a hail of gunfire about 9:30 p.m. Friday in the 200 block of Johnson Street. Her 13-year-old son had gone into their apartment and was not injured.
After the gunshots, two men fled toward Curtiss Street.
McNeil died at the scene. Emergency workers rushed her mother to a hospital, where she was treated for injuries that were not life threatening, Garner police Lt. Wayne Moore said.
Friends and family say McNeil was a single mom devoted to her three boys, ages 13, 9 and 5. She had recently begun working with 2-year-olds at the Garner Academy preschool on Aversboro Road, and was planning to enroll at Miller-Motte College to study nursing.
She came to work every single day, Catherine Sills-Hash, her supervisor, said this week. She loved kids and got along with all of the parents.
She spent her last day of work decorating a classroom bulletin board with Christmas ornaments. Have A Magical Christmas, read the lettering on her classroom door.
Neighbors and family created a memorial of silken flowers, cards and glass-encased candles at the spot in the parking lot where McNeil died. They left more flowers and candles on the edge of the sidewalk where Harding was shot.
McNeils friends and family wonder how to explain to her sons what happened to her. And they worry about providing gifts for them this Christmas. Sills-Hash, who manages Garner Academy, said the daycare is asking parents for donations to help the McNeil children this Christmas.
The McNeil family have experienced tragedy before.
In August 2010, a Wake County jury found Latoya McNeils sister, Sherita Nicole McNeil, guilty of first-degree murder for the death of her 19-month-old son, DeVarion Gross. Police had found the toddlers body, wrapped in garbage bags and bleach-soaked sheets, decomposing in a bedroom closet.
Friends this week described Latoya McNeil as the glue that kept the family together.
The day she died, McNeil had worked from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. She and her mother attended her sons basketball game at North Garner Middle School across the street.
Scott Briscoe, who lives next door, said he had just arrived home and was upstairs when he heard a barrage of gunfire in the parking lot. When Briscoe looked outside, he saw McNeil lying between two vehicles. Harding was on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to the shoulder.
They were coming from a sons basketball game, Briscoe said. He made it into the house. She didnt make it.
McNeils sister Michelle lives next door to her sisters apartment, where someone had placed flowers and candles on each of the steps leading up to the front door. An apple-scented candle was still lit Tuesday.
Michelle McNeil said she was in her bedroom the night of the shooting when she heard her sister hollering. She said her sister was a good person who spent her days working and taking care of her sons. She thinks the shooters parked away from the complex and ran toward Curtiss Drive afterward.
Latoya McNeils boys are okay, but theyre not okay, Michelle McNeil said. The oldest one is not eating.
She said the lack of progress in the case is frustrating.
Somebody knows something, she said These boys are without their mom. Anyone who knows something needs to tell the police. We need closure.
Latoya McNeils funeral will be Saturday at Springfield Baptist Church at 4309 Auburn-Knightdale Road.
Anyone who wants to contribute to a Christmas fund for Latoya McNeils sons can call 919-239-6299.
Police ask anyone with any information about the shootings to call the Garner Police Department at 919-772-8810.
News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.