Mother 'couldn’t reconcile' shooting death of Wilkinsburg woman allegedly targeted for tax refund money
A single mother of two young girls had just left work Thursday afternoon when she was shot and killed in what investigators believe was a robbery planned by one of her co-workers.
Keiauna Lynnette Davis, 27, was walking home about 2:50 p.m. after her shift at Dollar General had ended when she was fatally shot by a man who ambushed her on Laketon Road, Allegheny County police said.
Laya Whitley, 21, of East Hills, Dane J. Taylor, 21, of Swissvale, and Kaijin Scott, 23, of Turtle Creek, were charged in the slaying late Friday and have been arrested. In court documents, investigators detailed how Ms. Whitley, who worked with Ms. Davis at Dollar General, allegedly conspired with the two men to rob the 27-year-old of her $3,000 income tax refund.
“I can’t believe someone places so little value on someone else’s life for $3,000,” Sheila Detwiler, Ms. Davis’ mother, said on the phone on Friday.
Even before court documents describing the crime became available, Ms. Detwiler said she believed someone knew her daughter had a substantial amount of cash on her when she left work Thursday.
Ms. Davis’ tax refund had been deposited into the bank earlier Thursday, and her grandmother brought it to her while she was on her lunch break at Dollar General, Ms. Detwiler said.
Ms. Detwiler, 47, of Charlotte, N.C., said before charges were filed that she believed someone must have seen her daughter with the money, or overheard her talking about it. She thought someone was most likely waiting for her daughter to get off of work.
Police findings revealed in a criminal complaint for the suspects appear to validate Ms. Detwiler.
Investigators said Ms. Whitley was working with Ms. Davis at Dollar General Thursday afternoon. When Ms. Whitley found out about the money, she sent a text message to Mr. Taylor, and they decided to rob Ms. Davis, according to the complaint.
Mr. Taylor asked Mr. Scott to give him a ride and directed him to the Dollar General store in the 1700 block of Laketown Road. Investigators said surveillance camera video shows the car they were in exit the Dollar General parking lot as Ms. Davis left the store.
They followed Ms. Davis a short distance before Mr. Taylor told Mr. Scott to pull up in front of her. Mr. Taylor got out of the car wearing a mask and holding a gun, and a scuffle ensued between him and Ms. Davis, the complaint said. Mr. Taylor fired one shot that missed Ms. Davis, then he fired a second shot that hit her in the hip, according to the complaint.
Mr. Taylor grabbed Ms. Davis’ purse and returned to the car, the complaint said. He grabbed an envelope filled with cash out of the purse and threw the purse out of the car window before he and Mr. Scott drove away.
First responders found Ms. Davis suffering from a gunshot wound when they arrived at the scene. She was taken to UPMC Presbyterian, where she was pronounced dead.
Mr. Scott told police that Mr. Taylor gave him $800, then took the rest to Ms. Whitley.
Ms. Detwiler said her daughter had plans for the money; Ms. Davis and her daughters — 6-year-old Azaylah and 2-year-old Aliviyah — were preparing to move to North Carolina to be closer to Ms. Detwiler.
Ms. Detwiler said she was planning to come to Pittsburgh on Saturday to help with another daughter’s move to North Carolina. But when she got the news that Ms. Davis had been killed, she came a day early to start making funeral arrangements.
She said she was at work Thursday afternoon in Charlotte with her phone turned off as relatives and friends desperately tried to reach her. When she left her office, she turned on her phone and immediately received several messages, including one from her mother who told her “it was an emergency, urgently call her back,” she said.
Around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Ms. Detwiler called her brother, who was at the hospital. He handed the phone to Ms. Detwiler’s mother, who told her that Ms. Davis was dead.
“It wasn’t real,” Ms. Detwiler said. “I couldn’t reconcile it in my mind. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t.”
Ms. Detwiler said she doesn’t think the people who robbed her daughter intended to kill her. Still, she can’t understand why someone would have needed to shoot her daughter, whom she described as “petite.”
But she said her daughter wouldn’t have let the money go easily.
“She was a strong young woman,” Ms. Detwiler said. “She was tough, she was feisty. She fought for that money, I know she did.”
Ms. Detwiler said she will raise Azaylah and Aliviyah in Charlotte. She is still contemplating how she will explain to the girls why their mother isn’t there.
She said she wanted the people who killed her daughter to know what they took from her. She wants them to think about all of the lives they’ve impacted by pulling the trigger, including their own.
“They will answer for this,” Ms. Detwiler said. “I want them to know that their lives are over.”
Ms. Whitley, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Scott were placed in the Allegheny County Jail. They were scheduled to have a preliminary hearing March 9.
Ms. Detwiler said she last talked to Ms. Davis earlier this week on the phone. She told Ms. Davis that she found a five-bedroom house in the Charlotte area, and asked her daughter if she would be interested in moving there. Ms. Davis said yes.
Ms. Davis began working at Dollar General about a month ago, but she also had a job at Wendy’s. She was a single mother, but she was supported by a tight-knit family. She was especially close to her mother; her father committed suicide when she was 8.
“She was special to me,” Ms. Detwiler said. “She was special to everyone who knew her.”
Ms. Detwiler last saw her daughter in person about two weeks ago. Ms. Davis went to Charlotte the weekend of Feb. 9 to spend her birthday with her mother.
Ms. Davis was a big fan of the reality television show “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Peter Tomas, one of the stars of the show, owns a nightclub in Charlotte called Club One, so Ms. Detwiler took her daughter there for her birthday.
“She had an awesome time,” Ms. Detwiler said. “She was happy and dancing.”
While they were there, Peter Thomas was in the VIP area of the club. Ms. Davis asked him to take a photo, but her phone was dead. She asked her mother if she could use her phone, but its battery was also drained.
Ms. Detwiler remembers watching her daughter walk away from her when she dropped her off at the airport at the end of that weekend and said she wishes that she would have stopped her from going home.
“If I knew when I took her to the airport it would be the last time I saw her, I wouldn’t have let her go,” Ms. Detwiler said. “I would have held her tighter.”