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Families seek justice for loved ones; protest focuses on unsolved crimes in Orangeburg County
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Families seek justice for loved ones; protest focuses on unsolved crimes in Orangeburg County

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Shinique Bennett, far right, demands justice in the death of her son, Tyrique Smith, during a Saturday protest at the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office on Ellis Avenue. Another mother seeking justice is Lorraine Johnson, far left. Her son, Hiram Johnson, went missing on Nov. 28, 2018.

Back on June 8, 2012, 33-year-old Kyllia Lynette Holback of Branchville was found stabbed to death.

Someone was charged with murder, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.

In another case, family members haven’t seen 37-year-old Hiram Eugene “Sport” Johnson since Nov. 28, 2018.

Someone saw him get into the passenger’s seat of a vehicle near his Branchville home. He hasn’t been seen since.

Then on July 12 of this year, Tyrique Smith was found dead inside of his Lazy Way Road home.

Someone is facing an obstruction of justice charge in the case, however, no one has been charged in Smith’s death.

Members from these families and several others gathered for an hour on Saturday afternoon at the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office on Ellis Avenue to protest.

They demanded that the sheriff’s office bring justice in these cases and others that haven’t been solved.

Holback’s niece, Keynisha Williams said, “We want answers.”

“She couldn’t murder herself. She was basically handicapped,” she added.

Shinique Bennett, Smith’s mother, said, “We don’t even have any answers. They act like they don’t have any good answers.”

“Make a family feel whole. He didn’t deserve it and I don’t want his death to go in vain,” she added.

“That was by baby,” said Sally Bookhart, Smith’s grandmother. “I called him my son. I truly miss him.”

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“I want justice,” she added.

Bennett described Smith as “a good kid.”

“He stayed to himself a lot. He liked riding motorbikes, just chilling out. He really wasn’t into a whole lot,” she added, noting that he leaves behind a 9-year-old daughter.

And Lorraine Johnson, mother of the missing Branchville man, said, “They’re not giving us any answers.”

She held a poster with her son’s photo on it during the protest.

“It’s been almost two years and what do I know? Nothing,” she said.

Kelvin Gadson, a concerned citizen, said, “Somebody’s got to do something. If they need more funds, if they need more money to help get more people here to help them do something – but don’t just tell families anything and expect that to be all right. It’s not all right. If you need help, we can fight for you to get more help.”

Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell pledged his continued commitment to the cases on Monday.

“I take it very seriously that Orangeburg County has allowed me, along with the deputies of the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, to serve as the sheriff and lead this agency as we protect and serve this county,” he said in a prepared statement.

“It is the endeavor of our office to assist in obtaining justice for all of the victims of crime that we serve. One of the most hurtful things is to see the pain of families as a result of gun violence, especially when it ends in the loss of life,” he added.

He said the Criminal Investigations Division works diligently to provide answers to crime victims and their families.

“We have an open-door policy that affords family members the opportunity to come in and speak with our investigators or to have them meet them at an alternate location to relay information that they may have heard and to hear updates as it pertains to their cases,” he said.

“If the case is within Orangeburg County, the family is also provided a Victim Service provider to assist with navigating through the criminal justice system, relaying information and assistance with applying for financial services and counseling. Solving these cases and providing the families with the justice that they desire and deserve takes time and the assistance of the community to share with us information. We will remain committed to serving and protecting this community. We will remain committed to making sure that the families have access to us and continue doing all that we can to bring them answers,” Ravenell stated.

The group on Saturday also demanded the public to stop being violent and urged anyone with information about unsolved cases to report tips to the sheriff’s office.

If anyone has any information on these cases or others, they are encouraged to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. Callers don’t have to give their names.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.

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