Local News

Durham mother prepares for toddler's funeral

Posted May 8, 2011 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2011 10:41 a.m. EDT

— A Durham woman spent Mother's Day making funeral arrangements for her 22-month-old daughter, after police say the child's father shot her Saturday before turning the gun on himself.

LaToya Smith said she had been fighting with the father of her daughter, Tyaijah Destiny Hester, shortly before the shooting. 

Police found Tyrone Xavier Hester lying behind building N at the Hampton Forest Apartments, at 901 Chalk Level Road, shortly before 1 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tyaijah, who had also been shot behind the building but was still alive when officers arrived on scene, was taken to Duke University Hospital. She was pronounced dead a short time later.

Smith said she's struggling to cope with the loss.

"I'm hurting, but I just can't cry any more. I've been crying in church today. I've been crying everywhere," she said.

Smith's mother and the toddler's grandmother, Margarite McCrea, questioned why Hester would shoot his own daughter just two months before her second birthday.

"He didn't have to kill my baby. He didn't," McCrea said. "I don't care about him killing himself, but not my baby."

Hester's family, who said they were in shock over what happened, believe Hester was upset that Smith had started dating another man.

His cousin, Quanisha Burwell, was at the apartment where Hester was visiting family before the shooting.

"After he grabbed her, he said they were about to go to a better place," Burwell said.

She said Hester loved his daughter and always talked about her.

"I still can't believe it," she said.

According to Department of Correction records, Hester was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on a legislative officer in December 2004. He has previously been on probation for possession of stolen goods and assault on a female charges.

Police are still investigating the shooting.

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized Sunday.