Dreamzz Nelson was only 8 when he was shot in the head at his father’s home near Holly Hill.
Dondra Shuler, Nelson’s mother, said, “Doctors said he probably wouldn’t walk, he probably wouldn’t talk and probably wouldn’t see.
“Everything they said he wouldn’t do, he’s doing.”
One year ago today, an unknown gunman took the lives of Jerome Butler, 50; Krystal Hutto, 28; and Nelson’s half-sisters Shamekia Tyjuana Sanders, 17, and Tamara Alexia Perry, 14.
Each person died from a gunshot wound to their head.
Christopher Dean Wright, 37, the father to Nelson, Sanders and Perry, was not at the Old State Road home when the gunman opened fire, according to statements he gave law enforcement.
Shuler has remained silent about her son and that fateful July 15, 2015.
Now she wants everyone to know her son’s recovery over the past year has been nothing short of miraculous.
Nelson, who is 9 now, began riding a bike without training wheels this past Father’s Day.
Due to the gunshot injury, Nelson walks with a limp with his right foot and his right hand doesn’t work well.
“I’d strap his right hand on the handlebars and his right foot on the pedal, but now he’s riding his bike without any straps,” Shuler said.
In August, Nelson will start school as a third-grader.
Before the 2016 school year ended, he’d improved from his injuries enough to return to school.
“He’s reading and doing his math again,” Shuler said
As for the steamy morning of last July 15, Shuler said she and family members don’t talk with Nelson about it much.
“I told him last week, ‘It’s been a year since you got hurt,’” she said.
Shuler said she also told him, “We’re going to talk to the news.”
She said her son replied, “I’m glad so I can find out what happened.”
Shuler also noted that Nelson was asleep when a gunman shot him.
To date, no one has been charged in the shooting.
Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said a few days ago that the case is close to being solved. He expects arrests to take place sometime between now and Christmas, he said.
On that July 15 morning last year, Shuler was at a work site in Myrtle Beach when a friend called her to say that a shooting occurred at Wright’s home.
“I got out of my truck and about passed out,” she said.
She soon learned that her son was at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital in Charleston.
With the help of a friend and a cousin, Shuler arrived at MUSC.
“They sent a chaplain to talk with me and I started flipping out,” she said.
Then law enforcement and doctors spoke with her.
That’s when she heard a doctor tell her that her son suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was undergoing surgery.
“I really fainted. I mean I was out. They had to help me off the floor,” she said.
After her son’s surgery, Shuler walked into his hospital room.
“The first thing I saw was a bullet hole right over his right eye,” she said.
“I grabbed his hand and told him I was there,” she said. “He squeezed my hand.”
Nurses told her he hadn’t been responsive to verbal commands.
They asked her to try to get Nelson to squeeze her hand again.
“Dreamzz, please squeeze my hand,” she told him. He did it again.
“I really think he was waiting for me to get there,” Shuler said.
Nelson’s condition improved and he was released from MUSC to a children’s rehabilitation center in Charlotte, N.C.
Initially, Nelson was wheelchair-dependent, barely talking and wasn’t able to take care of his bathroom needs.
But as each day passed, Nelson improved.
“I draw my strength from Dreamzz,” Shuler said.
She explained that Nelson had been spending a few days with his dad at 7050 Old State Road, Holly Hill.
On Monday, July 13 she spoke with her son on the phone. She was prepared to pick him up, as he’d already been there a few days.
He told her that he was playing with his sisters.
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“Dreamzz didn’t really get to spend time with his sisters often, so I told him I’d pick him up on the weekend,” she said.
By Wednesday, his sisters were dead.
As was Hutto, his father’s fiancée, and Butler.
Nelson was left for dead.
At first, Shuler blamed herself.
“If I went and got my baby that Monday, this wouldn’t have happened to him,” she said.
“He knows his sisters didn’t make it,” she said.
Shuler said that when her son first started to talk while recovering from his injuries, he asked if his daddy was dead.
“He still loves his daddy,” she said.
Wright visited Nelson once when he was at MUSC. Shuler said she was “kind of skeptical” about Wright visiting him, but told herself “well, this is his son.”
Not long after that, law enforcement arrested Wright. They charged him with three counts of unlawful neglect of a child, obstruction of justice and trafficking crack cocaine.
He was already on bond for two counts of trafficking cocaine.
An Orangeburg County magistrate did not set bond on Wright’s charges. Since, then he’s appeared in Circuit Court to ask a judge for bond consideration. Judge Ed Dickson upheld the magistrate’s decision.
Wright remains jailed at the Orangeburg County Detention Center. He is not charged in the shootings.
Shuler said Wright tried to call her a couple of days ago.
She said that she’s decided to talk about what’s happened over the past year because neither she nor her son has justice yet.
“It’s been a year and I don’t have justice yet. I don’t know why and I don’t know who,” she said.
For the first four months after the shootings, Shuler was scared.
“At one point I was terrified to come outside because we don’t know who did this,” she said.
“I was even scared to bring him outside.”
On a night in November, she prayed to God, asking him to help her.
“I’m tired of being scared to walk out of my own home,” she said. “I didn’t want to live like that anymore.”
“Once I let it go, things got better,” she said.
Two months ago, she returned to work.
For 10 months, she didn’t work and that caused financial hardships for her, Nelson and two children.
Although Nelson’s medical bills are paid, Shuler said her months of going without work have put her in a bind, with rent and regular household bills to pay.
After the shootings took place, she heard from several individuals and groups who said they wanted to help her, but many of those didn’t provide any relief.
She said the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Victim’s Services department offered to provide assistance, but she was told there aren’t any funds when she calls to talk with them about her financial needs.
“I’m sure there was something somebody could’ve done,” she said.
Ravenell said that while state law does not require an agency to provide financial support after a family loss, it was still provided.
In a statement on Thursday, Ravenell said that the Victim’s Services department took the family not only into its arms, but its hearts as well.
“It is regrettable that our efforts to provide for this family’s needs are felt to have fallen short,” Ravenell said. “I wish we could provide more for this family and everyone but our resources, personally and officially, are limited.”
Ravenell also stated, “We’ve kept in constant contact, providing emotional support since the first day Dreamzz lay in a coma.
“We’ve checked on and have been concerned for his general welfare for a year now. Again, we wish we could do more.”
Shuler said she has full faith in God. Her son’s miraculous recovery and continued progress keep her focused during the tough financial times.
She explained that she named her son Dreamzz after watching Season 14 of the reality TV show “Survivor,” which aired in 2007.
One of the two runners-up was Andria “Dreamz” Herd, of Wilmington, N.C.
Shuler said she was rooting for Herd and liked his nickname.
She decided to name her son Dreamzz, with an extra “z,” before his birth.
“When he was born, he came out breached. He came out feet first,” she said. He entered the world by overcoming a challenge.
“This boy’s name really came to fit him,” she said. “Thank you, Lord, for saving Dreamzz.”
The sheriff’s office is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the murders.
A dedicated tip line for the Holly Hill case is 1-888-825-7172.