DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – One year after her son’s murder, a Durham mother is calling on the community to help catch the man police say is the killer.
Justin Royster died May 3, 2018, when he and another man were shot outside his grandmother’s house on Canal Street.
In October, Durham Police charged 28-year-old Donnelle Wilkerson with Royster’s murder, but they have not been able to find Wilkerson.
“I pray to God that he comes forward,” said Denise Ray, Royster’s mother.
“If not, he’s going to be found. I believe that in my heart. I don’t like to put a time-stamp on anything, because it’s all in God’s plan, but he is going to be caught. He is going to be caught.”
Ray and other family members set up a cross, candles, and dozens of balloons Friday afternoon at the spot where Royster took his final steps. They planned to light the candles just after 11 p.m., at the same time when 911 calls reported the firing of the shots that killed the 27-year-old.
His grandmother has not stayed in her home in the year since the shooting. She moved in with Royster’s mother, who occasionally stops by the house but never stays long.
“I don’t even know how I made it here. I’ve been so numb this past year. I really haven’t even dealt with it. Literally, this week is when I realized it’s been a year, and I’m never ever going to see him again,” Ray said.
“In the back of my mind I always say he’s gone on a trip and he’s coming. He’s just being hard-headed and not calling me like he’s supposed to, letting me know ‘I’m okay, Mama, I’m okay.’ It’s just been surreal,” she added.
Ray said many of her son’s friends check in on her regularly. She said those friends know Royster would do the same thing for their families if it was one of them who died.
The late-night vigil is planned to be a demonstration of unity to the community and a symbol of love to her son.
“Just to let him know that we know that he’s watching over us and he’s protecting us and we just know that he’s our heavenly angel,” Ray said.
“I know it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard. There’s just no way around it. No way around it.”
Another gathering is planned for Saturday at 4 p.m. at Durham’s East End Park, which will honor Royster and others who have lost their lives to violence.
Durham Police want anyone with information about Donnell Wilkerson’s whereabouts to contact Crimestoppers at 919-683-1200 or through the Crimestoppers website.