"My name is Latavia Johnson. I would have been 23 today. I was murdered in my homE.
GRAND RAPIDS -- Chills went through Rochelle Johnson's heart last week when she heard an 8-year-old boy had been hit by a bullet while eating a bedtime snack in his Southeast Side home.
"I thought, 'Oh Lord, another baby dead,'" Johnson said.
Fortunately, Rogelio Villarreal survived Thursday's gunfire, but the boy is afraid to return to his Prospect Avenue home.
Rochelle Johnson, left, with daughter, Nonteria, cries after returning for the first time to the scene where, in 1993, her daughter, Latavia, 8, was killed when someone fired a shot into their house.
For Johnson, it triggered memories of her own tragedy. She still grieves over the 1993 slaying of her 8-year-old daughter, Latavia Johnson, killed by a shotgun blast that came through the family's bathroom window. That night, the mother of seven left her home at 1150 Ionia Ave. SW and never returned.
"We left everything in the house and started over," Johnson recalled.
That was 15 years ago. On Monday, she returned to the murder site with her twin sister, Raynell Johnson, her daughter, Nonteria Johnson, and her youngest grandchild.
Rochelle Johnson said she still worries because police have not found her daughter's killer.
"They tell me it's a matter of time, but a mother never forgets," Johnson said, tears sliding down her cheeks. "I couldn't speak on it, couldn't talk about it for so long. I lived at Pine Rest."
Latavia's then-9-year-old sister, Nonteria, was home the night of the Dec. 16 shooting. The family was gathering Christmas decorations when the gun blast came through the window and struck Latavia as she was going to the refrigerator for a glass of milk.
Nonteria, who now has a 6-month-old girl of her own, wonders what her sister would have achieved.
"I wonder if she would have had kids and gone to college," Nonteria Johnson said.
Rochelle's twin sister, Raynell, was baby-sitting the children at the time of the shooting while their mother took another sibling to the hospital. The aunt remembers kicking in a door, hustling the children into a closet and diving under a bed.
It was a bloody stretch in the city's history. Latavia's death was the 28th homicide of a record 34 murders in 1993.
"We worked thousands of hours on that," Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said of Latavia's homicide case. "It's been worked on by a number of detectives to the point where we thought we'd have promising leads, and they never came together to obtain a warrant for anyone."
Rumors swirled about the second-grader's killing, with some saying the violence was meant for one of Latavia's siblings, or it was a revenge killing, or even a hit placed on the Johnson home because someone there knew about another murder.
But nothing concrete ever came from the rumors.
With no arrests, Rochelle Johnson fears her daughter will be forgotten.
But Belk disputes that.
"It's been a high priority for us," the chief said. "It's an old case, but we don't forget about them."
Neither does Latavia's family.
Every March 27, on Latavia's birthday, the family gathers at the Grand River with 50 to 100 balloons. Inside each is a message on a piece of paper. The message is the same; only the age changes.
Tears roll down Rochelle Johnson's face as she returns to the scene where her daughter, Latavia, was killed.