RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - It’s been nearly two years since Simone Butler-Thomas lost her son, but you can still hear the pain in her voice as she relives the moment he was killed.
“That’s the only memory that I have, my son lying there,” said Butler-Thomas. “As much as he helped others, there was nobody to help him.”
Kouren-Rodney Thomas, 20, was killed in August of 2016 when he was gunned down in front of a home on Singleleaf Lane in Raleigh.
In February, a jury found Chad Copley guilty of murder. Copley was sentenced to life without parole after shooting the unarmed young man from inside his home.
Copley had previously told police he was defending his home and family when he shot Thomas from inside his garage. Thomas, who was leaving a party in Copley's neighborhood, died as a result of the shooting.
Copley said there were people in his yard yelling profanities and at least one of them showed a weapon. Prosecutors argued that Copley's life was never in danger.
Some have compared the case to that of George Zimmerman, who was charged but not convicted of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman told dispatchers he was part of a neighborhood watch group, just as Copley told dispatchers.
“We got a bunch of hoodlums out here racing,” Copley said in the 911 call. “I am locked and loaded and I am going outside to secure my neighborhood. You need to send PD as quickly as possible. I am going to secure my neighborhood. I am on the neighborhood watch. I am going to have my neighbors with me."
Thomas’ mom says her son had dreams of opening a transitional home for single fathers with kids. She says the 20-year-old had a business plan and got the idea after seeing his brother trying to raise six children as a single father.
“He used to tease and say, ‘Man there will be no place for you to go if you ever got on the street with them kids',” said Butler-Thomas. “We just want to give people a fresh start and give them in-home daycare and basic life skills so they can be productive when they’re able to leave.”
Butler-Thomas is now working towards opening that transitional home in her son’s honor.
“It makes me feel a little better if this succeeds his death won’t be in vain,” said Butler-Thomas. “But there’s nothing that can make me feel better. There’s nothing. The only thing that can make me feel better is to have him back and I know that’s not going to happen.”
Butler-Thomas is currently in the process of raising funds to open the home. If you’re interested in donating or learning more, you can visit her GoFundMe page.
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