By Dieujuste Johnson
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
On November 7, 2013, four people were shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida. No arrest has ever been made.
Derek Lennard Williams was one of the victims. For Sakina Bell, his mother, life must goes on, but she continues to remember and grieve for her beloved Derek.
“He was a promoter of smiles and he never missed a chance to say “I love you,” and I really miss hearing his voice” Bell said.
According to his family, Williams was a father who gave his all to his three children. His two sons and daughter will forever remember their dad.
In addition to Williams, sisters Keshell and Keyonna Brown and Gontrell Hagans were the other victims of the quadruple murder on Randolph Street. Gunshots rang, according to individuals in the area, and in an instant, families were shattered.
Sakina Bell is a therapist and knows the various stages of grief, but still she has had a hard time reaching the point of acceptance.
“It’s one of the first things we learned in school – we can’t diagnose ourselves,” Bell said. “We need therapy as well.”
And so, Williams’ family remains in the grieving process and they are still finding it hard to cope with the fact that he is gone.
Bell has a very close relationship with all of her children and said she raised her kids to see each other as ones to lean on.
“We all we got,” Bell always said.
As a result, Williams’ death took a great toll upon his siblings. His brother and best friend Dereious, according to Bell, “is still grieving” five years later.
Williams left behind three children – one daughter, who was 12, and two sons who were five and two at the time of his death. The daughter, having the most memory of the her father, still gets angry at her father’s murderers, even though she doesn’t know who they were.
Bell said she feels like the detective assigned to investigate her son’s murder did not attack the case as aggressively as he should have.
“It took the detective days to contact me and he never attempted to contact the leads that I provided,” Bell said.
In 2017, a defendant in a separate murder case, Lewis Braclet, came forward with information on the quadruple murder. Unfortunately, the State Attorney’s Office has been unable to charge Braclet or anyone else with the killings.
Though the case has gone cold, Williams will never be forgotten. He lived a life that left a mark upon everyone he touched.
According to Bell, Williams’ funeral overflowed with people mourning their loss as well as celebrating the life he lived.
Even the gravesite worker attending Williams’ burial was impressed by the man.
“He said he would always remember my son because of the amount of people who showed up,” Bell remembered.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Derek Williams, Keshell Brown, Keyonna Brown or Gontrell Hagans , please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
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