Friends, family struggle with loss of young woman slain in shooting

Dre’Kwon Bagley on Thursday posted on his Facebook page a picture of his girlfriend Kari Onyea Watson, a vibrant, smart freshman at Winston-Salem State University who was home for the winter holiday break.

The photo of Watson, 18, shows her sharing a kiss with Bagley. Her eyes are closed and her pretty face is framed by dark braids that cascade down past her shoulder.

Police say that at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, a man with a history of breaking and entering fired gunshots in the 2800 block of Filbert Street that struck and killed Watson and wounded her boyfriend.

Emergency workers who arrived at the narrow street just off Rock Quarry Road in Southeast Raleigh pronounced Watson dead at the scene. Paramedics transported Bagley to the hospital where he was treated for injuries not considered life-threatening.

Investigators Thursday afternoon charged Xavier JaQuan Sanders, 21, with murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill in connection with the double shooting.

Investigators have not yet disclosed a motive for the shooting or details of the crime, but a neighbor said she was home when Bagley and Watson parked and got out of a 1997 Nissan Maxima in front of Bagley’s mother’s house.

She said a man, who stood across the street from the yellow, two-story home, began firing at the couple. Watson was struck in the arm and head. Bagley, who had been home for less than a week from the Job Corps, was also struck by gunfire but still managed to drag his mortally wounded girlfriend into the house. The neighbor, a certified nursing assistant, said she went to the Bagleys’ home to check Watson’s vital signs and perform CPR, but she said the young woman was already dead.

The aftermath

No one answered the door at the Bagley home on Christmas afternoon. But bullet holes pierced the garage door and front of the house where a window was shattered.

Filbert Street appeared peaceful enough on Christmas Day. A group of youngsters shot basketballs at a goal that stood at the intersection of Filbert Street and Maidenhair Drive. A young woman, her arms filled with gifts wrapped in light-blue paper, knocked on the door of a home and patiently waited for someone to answer.

But Bagley, wherever he spent Christmas, was struggling to come to terms with what happened and how to bury his girlfriend.

“I am so hurt,” Bagley posted on his Facebook page late Christmas morning. “I don’t even feel like Christmas. I’M HURTING MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY. I just wish everyone a safe Christmas.”

Raising funds

A family friend this week started a GoFundMe campaign to help Watson’s family pay for her burial expenses. By Christmas afternoon, 122 people had contributed more than $5,000.

Remarks from officials at the college she attended and friends indicated Watson was a remarkable young woman who looked forward to a career in teaching.

“A daughters love,” wrote Michelle Gardner, who started the GoFundMe campaign. Watson, Gardner wrote, “was an angel in training, that the LORD called home way too soon.”

The young woman graduated this year from Southest Raleigh High School and earned one of the first ever Wake County Future Teachers Scholarships. “On December 23rd, 2015 the selfish acts of another stole our angel but not her spirit,” Gardner wrote.

One day after the shooting, Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson issued a statement where he described Watson as a first-year freshman who made the Dean’s List after the fall semester. Robinson said the university’s “faculty, staff, and students are deeply saddened” by Watson’s death.

“This is a tremendous loss,” Robinson said. “We grieve for the promising young life that has been lost and share in the heartbreak of her family and friends.”

No bail

State records show Sanders spent one day in jail in 2010 after he was charged with felony breaking and entering, larceny after breaking and entering and conspiracy to commit breaking and entering.

Sanders was convicted of the charges Nov. 30, 2011, and sentenced to one year probation, state records show. One year later, Sanders was convicted of a probation violation. His probation was extended by six months and he was ordered to spend one weekend in jail, state records show.

Jail officials said Sanders was booked into the Wake County jail Thursday at 1:08 p.m. He remained in custody Friday afternoon without benefit of bail, a jail spokesman reported.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @tmcdona75589225

Want to help?

To donate to Kari Watson’s funeral and burial expenses, visit the GoFundMe campaign at…