CMPD Charges Three Men in Killing of 4 Year-Old Girl, Parents

Father, Mother, Child Lived near One of Three Men Accused in Their Deaths

From the Charlotte Observer of August 25, 2011

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Meghan Cooke and Gary L. Wright

Lorenzo and Cheryl Graves were found shot to death in front of their downstairs TV. The body of their 4-year-old daughter, Oznola, was near her parents’ bed, where family members think she was hiding before she was stabbed to death.

On Wednesday, less than a day after police discovered the family slain in their south Charlotte apartment, police officers arrested three men in connection with the killings. One lived within shouting distance of the victims, in the same apartment complex.

Family photo of  4 year-old Oznola Graves

Police say robbery was the motive in the killings, but people at the Quail Run apartments struggled to come to terms with the gruesome slayings.

“Someone that kills a child doesn’t have a heart,” said Janice Nicholson, a next-door neighbor who said the Graves family brought food to her when she was sick this summer.

Lorenzo Tyrone White, 27, Joseph Louis Amous, 25, and Linny Marquise Barcliff, 20, were apprehended by police by Wednesday afternoon.

White is charged with three counts of murder, two counts of robbery, three counts of kidnapping and conspiracy. He’s being held without bond. Amous is charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and was being held late Wednesday on $50,000 bond.

Barcliff’s charges weren’t immediately available.

Family members said one of the men was a suspect in a break-in at the family’s apartment two months ago. Lorenzo Graves decided not to pursue charges, and the charges were dropped, relatives said.

Lorenzo Graves had given money to at least one of the men.

Police said they had White and Amous in custody shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Barcliff eluded searchers by moving between apartments via the rafters of a shared roof in the Quail Run complex, police said.

At one point, he crashed through the ceiling into a woman’s bedroom and was eventually arrested.

Later Wednesday, relatives of the Graves family gathered at their apartment, where a memorial of stuffed animals, pink heart-shaped balloons and scented candles grew by the front door.

“To kill a baby…,” said the couple’s brother-in-law, Philip Sarpong, shaking his head and wiping tears. “Terrible. I really want to ask them why.”

He said the girl may have recognized one of the suspects.

Remembering victims

Lorenzo Graves had New Jersey roots and several other children. His Facebook page said he loved gospel music, fishing and “being me.”

Cheryl Graves’ profile said she enjoyed working and taking care of her family.

Lorenzo Graves’ mother, Mary Williams, said her son always did the cooking at family barbecues. He recently took his wife and daughter on a fishing trip.

Kenneth Graves said his brother, who had a criminal record, was trying to turn his life around, singing in the choir at his church and severing ties with previous associates.

They had lived at the Quail Run apartments for less than a year, Nicholson said. Lorenzo Graves collected government disability and had a fledgling business selling hot dogs and cheese steaks from a trailer he kept parked in front of the apartment, she said.

Fun-loving Sweetie Pie

Oznola, who went by “Ozzie,” could often be seen outside riding her bike or eating her favorite summertime treat, watermelon.

The girl, whose grandmother called her “Sweetie Pie,” was supposed to begin Head Start prekindergarten classes this week.

Nicholson, the neighbor, said she last saw Lorenzo Graves early Monday. Graves was outside working on his car, something he often did when he couldn’t sleep.

On Tuesday, a concerned family member asked police to check on the family. The door was locked, so an apartment complex manager let officers in.

Police didn’t confirm the causes of death or say whether a suspect was on the loose shortly after the bodies were discovered. But that night, they began making arrests.

Investigators also refused to give more information about the nature of the robbery, or describe any connection between the Graveses and the men who were arrested.

Lorenzo Tyrone White was convicted last year of felony possession of a weapon of mass destruction, court records show. He was given credit for being locked up for 88 days and placed on probation for three years.

In 2004, White was convicted of felony possession with intent to sell cocaine and placed on probation for two years.

White also was charged last year with felony possession of a weapon of mass destruction, possession of a firearm by felon, possession with intent to sell cocaine, according to court records. Those charges were dismissed.

Joseph Louis Amous was charged in June with felony breaking and entering and larceny, according to court records. Those charges were dismissed. He was charged last year with misdemeanor possession of stolen goods. That charge is pending.

Barcliff was convicted last year of possession of marijuana.

King Funeral Home in Charlotte is handing funeral arrangements, which were incomplete late Wednesday.

Staff researcher Marion Paynter contributed.

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

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