‘A Special Angel In Heaven’: Parents of Secoriea Turner Continue to Grieve, Seek Justice
For eight short years, Secoriea Turner was a bubbly, bright child who loved to dance, make TikTok videos and make new friends.
She was smart and ambitious, with big dreams of attending Spelman College when she graduated high school.
She lit up every room she entered.
Now, her parents, Charmaine Turner and Secoriey Williamson, brace themselves for a life without her.
After having two sons, Charmaine Turner found out she was pregnant with her third child in 2011. She prayed for a daughter. That’s all she wanted, and she was ecstatic to find out at one of her ultrasound appointments that she was having a girl.
“I was super scared,” Turner said, "but I was excited because I had a feeling that I was having a girl."
Life with Secoriea, and the devastation of her death
Secoriea was born on Thanksgiving, and although her father couldn’t attend her birth, Williamson arrived just in time to have his daughter lay on his chest. She didn’t cry like other newborns, and Williamson distinctly recalls her soft, light skin. For a moment, it was just a father loving his newest daughter.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” he said.
As Secoriea grew up, her personality flourished into never-ending energy and joy for the world around her. When she would stay over her father’s house, she’d keep him on his toes as she would dart from place to place with her neighborhood friends.
“If she was here right now, I’d probably be like, ‘Sit down, Secoriea. Why do you keep on going out the door?’” Williamson said. “She just doesn’t want to be bored.”
Turner also felt proud to be Secoriea’s mother. The girl was respectful, kind to others, and extremely intelligent.
“She was my princess,” Turner said.
It was July 4 when Turner, her boyfriend Omar Ivery and Secoriea were driving to a liquor store on University Ave. There was a barricade blocking their SUV's way in, so Ivery attempted to drive around it. Turner said two people stood near the vehicle, yelled out to them, and immediately started shooting toward the tires and the back of her SUV, where Secoriea was sitting. Turner grabbed her daughter from the back seat to protect her, not yet realizing she was shot.
“She just collapsed,” Turner said. “As I grabbed her, it was like she was passing away.”
Turner tried keeping Secoriea conscious by holding her and talking to her as Ivery drove them to Atlanta Medical Center shortly after calling the police. Medical personnel took Secoriea and tried to revive her, but it was too late. A single bullet had struck Secoriea, and she died.
Turner will never forget those final moments with her only daughter.
“It was the worst day of my life,” she said.
Williamson wasn’t there when Secoriea died, but he remembers the last conversation they had only hours before her death. Secoriea had talked to her half-sister via Facetime, and she and Williamson caught up on their day.
Their last words together were “I love you, and I’ll talk to you later.”
“Every time I talked to her, I’d always say, ‘I love you,” Williamson said. “That was the last time I talked to her.”
Hours before Secoriea’s death, Turner dropped off Williamson’s son at his grandmother’s apartment in Bankhead to enjoy Fourth of July fireworks. When Turner said Secoriea wanted to celebrate somewhere else, he didn’t think much of it. He remembered hearing gunshots among the strings of fireworks crackling in the sky, never thinking a gunshot would kill his daughter that night.
Then, he got a phone call from his little brother telling him Secoriea was shot and that he needed to head to the hospital. He got a ride to Grady Memorial Hospital, thinking his daughter was there and would recover smoothly. When he realized he was at the wrong hospital, he called Secoriea’s mother’s phone for the correct location.
“They picked up her mama’s phone, and I remember these words like it was yesterday,” Williamson said. “‘Secoriea (is) gone. Secoriea’s dead.’”
Williamson still struggles to believe his daughter is gone, and said he’ll probably never accept the tremendous loss.
“She didn’t even have a chance to live life,” Williamson said. “She didn’t even have the chance to sing.”
Secoriea was shot adjacent to the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed by an Atlanta police officer in June. Protests denouncing police brutality against people of color were held at the fast food restaurant site for weeks after Brooks’ death, but demonstrations quickly turned destructive and resulted in the Wendy's being burned and later demolished by the city.
Williamson said a Black Lives Matter protestor took his daughter’s life, and he finds the difference between advocacy for Black child victims of gun violence and that for Black adult victims of police brutality to be stark.
“These kids were being kids, and nobody stood up for them,” Williamson said.
Turner felt like people were harboring the same resentment and distrust in police against her daughter.
“It’s not right because it could have been anybody,” she said. “One of their daughters, nieces, cousins. My baby loved family, and we loved her.”
Both Turner and Williamson addressed the media on Dec. 18 to push for justice in finding additional suspects in their daughter’s death. So far, just one suspect, Julian Conley, has been arrested and charged for her murder, although he said he wasn’t the one who killed her.
They also recently created a commercial to bring awareness to Secoriea’s wrongful killing and how much the family deserves answers, especially during their first holiday season without her.
“She's always happy lighting up the room because she's always loud, making everybody laugh, and we won't get to experience that this year,” Turner said.
Trying to cope
Williamson still feels Secoriea’s presence in his apartment in southwest Atlanta. His other children will sometimes call out to her and tell her they love her. He even keeps a corner of his living room as a shrine for her — hand-drawn portraits, one of the last shirts she wore and a lone piece of cake with Secoriea's name on it, slowly decaying in a plastic container.
"I can’t even enjoy myself with my kids because I’ll be like, ‘I wish Secoriea was here,’" he said.
Turner doesn’t go a moment without grieving the loss of Secoriea or replaying the moments before she died. She can still hear her voice calling for her when she’s watching TV or trying to distract herself with everyday tasks. Her two sons try their best to be strong, but struggle to ease the emotional pain. By the end of their nightly prayers, they break down from the grief.
“Me and her brothers and family and her dad are going to make sure she’s never forgotten about,” Turner said.
For months, Secoriea’s above-ground grave was adorned with a unicorn floral arrangement, stuffed animals and her favorite bags of snacks bleached by the sun. But for what would have been her ninth birthday, her gravesite was decorated with balloons, flowers and things she would have enjoyed on her day if she were still alive.
Family and friends gathered around her gravesite with helium balloons to celebrate Secoriea’s life with peace, joy and laughter. They embraced each other as Williamson read a prayer over his late daughter.
There is a special angel in heaven as a part of me
It’s not where I want her to be, but where God wants her to be
She was here just a moment like a nighttime shooting star
Although she’s in heaven, she isn’t far
She’s touched the hearts of many like only an angel could do
I would’ve held her every minute if the ending I only knew
So send this special message to heaven up above
And please take care of my angel and send her all of my love