SPRINGFIELD -- The family of two Springfield teenagers killed in separate shootings held a party over the weekend to mark what would have been their 20th birthday, hoping that someone among the dozens of people present at one of the killings might name the shooter.
Sheila A. Shepard organized Saturday night's party for the friends and family of her twin sons, Darnell and Daylan Shepard. Darnell was shot in May, at a friend's 16th birthday party in front of 100 guests. Daylan's death followed in July on a city street corner.
Two men, Porfirio Morales, 25, and Leo White, 20, have been arrested and have pleaded not guilty in connection with Daylan's murder. According to police, Daylan was targeted because he was a stranger in the neighborhood he was passing through.
But there have been no arrests in Darnell's shooting, and their mother hoped that the birthday party would spur one of the dozens of people present when Darnell was shot to step forward.
On Saturday night, guests had little to say about the shooting.
"Everybody knows who it was," Arlington J. Dixon, 19, told The Republican newspaper.
But Dixon, a family friend of the Shepards and companion of the twins who has moved to New York City to attend college, refused to name the suspect.
Dylan and Darnell's father, John Shepard, had initially opposed the idea of the party at Cottage Hill Banquet Hall.
"I didn't want any kind of celebration until they found Darnell's killer. I have no good words to say," he said, surveying the room, which had begun to fill with the boys' teenage friends and family members.
The deaths of the Shepards sparked vigils, political mobilization, and calls for reform. But the killings devastated the boys' family, who said street violence had never been a part of their lives.
"Our family is educated. We are all college graduates. These boys had supportive parents. They had the Boys and Girls Club. Our family doesn't fit that," said the twins' aunt, Nancy Shepard of Springfield.
Telea Y. Shepard, the twins' older sister, rushed from work Saturday to attend the party and dish out chicken and spaghetti from the buffet line. A Springfield College senior, she said her family has grown closer since her brothers' deaths.
"We used to hardly talk even though we all lived in the same city. Now we talk every day," she said. "My dad's taken it the hardest. He misses his boys, and that guilt gets up inside him."