A South Carolina family of a deceased mother of nine is looking to the community for financial support after the woman was fatally shot in the chest and her next-door neighbor arrested for the crime. The fundraiser has been set asking for the public to help pay for funeral expenses.
On the evening of Saturday, Aug. 30, while Nicholas Sklyar Lucas was conducting target practice in the yard of his Gaffney, South Carolina, home, Kesha Luwan Lucille Tate was killed by a stray bullet from the gunplay — or so he would later tell authorities. A few of her children state that after she heard shots being fired, she went to look out the window to see the commotion, WHNS reports.
It was then, one of Lucas’ bullets blasted the mom and grandmother in her chest.
After deputies from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the home on Songbird Lane around 6:30 p.m. and attempted to check Tate’s vital signs. She was unresponsive.
The Cherokee County coroner declared the 42-year-old dead on the site.
Immediately the CCSO started to investigate what happened, interviewing and collecting evidence throughout the night. Finally, around 2:53 a.m., Lucas was identified as a person of interest, believed to be the one liable for the deadly shooting.
Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said Tate’s death was “senseless.”
“This is a senseless death that could have been avoided had the gun owner been responsible and chosen a safer place to target practice,” Mueller remarked, before saying, “It is mind-blowing that a person thinks it’s alright to target practice or discharge a gun within close proximity to so many other homes in a neighborhood.”
Lucas, who reportedly confessed to law enforcement that the single bullet ricocheted during his target practice, was originally arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and shooting under the influence.
On Tuesday, Aug. 30, those charges were upgraded to murder and discharging a weapon into a dwelling. Authorities determined there was no way the bullet could have ricocheted as they were originally told.
WHNS reports the CCSO said in a released statement, “The only way the victim could have been struck was for the shooter to turn and intentionally fire in that direction.”
The bereaved family is now preparing for Tate’s homegoing service and trying to pick up the pieces.
Beverly Vercher, Tate’s sister, said her children are “literally devastated.”
“Especially the ones that actually saw it,” Vercher explained. “All of them were there, but the older ones were actually in the room and saw it.”
This is the second major trauma the children have endured in a year. The kids’ father was killed on Thanksgiving of 2021. Tate was the sole parent to the brood, including a 4-year-old, WYFF4.com.
“We got nine children that lost their mother,” the sheriff said. “And as a father and as a sheriff, that hurts.”
The sudden death has placed the family in a financial bind, turning to crowdfunding to help them pay for the funeral services.
Traleekia Tate set up the GoFundMe page, hoping to raise $6,000. In four days, the community has risen to the occasion and surpassed that goal. With less than 200 contributors, the family has raised over $10,000 through the platform. The family may have received money directly, as Traleekia also posted her cash app information: $Josiahmommy94.
Community organizations have pitched in to raise money independent of the family’s effort. Two businesses, a salon and a restaurant, have stepped up to the plate to help.
The family is not only locked on Tate’s “celebration of life,” but making sure justice is served.
The sister said, “We’re hoping that the justice system takes this seriously and realizes that he took a mom away from her kids.”
The CCSO is continuing to investigate the shooting and working with the family.
Mueller said he asked the family, “Do you trust me, and do you trust my investigators to do their jobs?”
“Both of the sisters and brothers that were sitting with me. They said, ‘Sheriff, we trust you and we want them to do their job,’ and that’s what happened,” the top cop said.
The new charges ensure Lucas will stand trial for the murder of Ms. Tate. His bond was denied this week.