It was a neighbor at the Fairmont Terrace apartments who first spotted the boy: He was outside around lunchtime, pedaling his tricycle down the sidewalk without a caregiver in sight.
The neighbor hadn’t been able to reach the boy’s mother the morning of Jan. 7, 2013, and she knew it was unusual for him to be outside without her nearby.
They climbed the stairs to his apartment and the 3-year-old grabbed his neighbor’s hand, pulling her through the front door and back to a bedroom where four women lay dead. One was his mother, the other her twin sister.
The slain women’s hands were tied behind their backs. They’d all been shot “execution-style” in the head.
Police told reporters a young child had been found at the scene, but wouldn’t discuss why he was there.
Tulsans were returning to school and work from holiday breaks, and the year that had just ended saw the lowest number of homicides for the past decade in the city. That would not be the case for 2013, which ended with a near-record high of 66 killings, including two rare quadruple homicide cases.
A newspaper headline deemed the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex, where the women were killed, the “epicenter of poverty (and) crime” in the area. Home to project-based federally subsidized housing near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue, Fairmont Terrace residents and their neighbors were twice as likely to be living in poverty as Tulsa overall, according to census data.
They were accustomed to the sounds of gunshots and police sirens, but fear permeated among residents and other concerned Tulsans as days and weeks wore on without an arrest or publicly-named suspect.
Charon Powell’s two daughters were slain, and her grief came with a high level of anxiety as she took the boy — her grandson Tallynn — home to live with her.
What if he saw something that could make him a target? Could the shooters find out where he was?
Charon, who owns a pallet yard in a Tulsa community known to locals as Dawson, had been driving a piece of equipment in the yard when she got the phone call from one of her daughters’ friends. The word “done” rang in her ears.
What was done? Had Rebeika been arrested as Charon hoped?
In the months leading to her daughter’s death, Charon became concerned about the increasingly seedy circle her daughter Rebeika had become involved with, leading Charon to contact law enforcement. She thought an arrest might keep her daughter safe and stop the small-time drug dealing Kayetie reported to their mother.
Rebeika Powell — Tallynn’s mother — and her twin sister, Kayetie Powell Melchor, lived inside the Fairmont apartment where they were killed. The other victims, Julie Jackson, 55, and Misty Nunley, 33, had apparently been visiting them.
Prosecutors allege brothers James and Cedric Poore were tipped off to drugs in the apartment and robbed the twins before killing them, along with Nunley and Jackson.
Both previously served prison time after pleading guilty to armed robbery. Cedric Poore’s probation had technically been revoked at the time of the slayings but he hadn’t been returned to custody due to delays in paperwork processing by the state Department of Corrections.
“The bad guy hurt my mom,” Tallynn eventually told Charon.
“I hide,” he said as he’d crouch down.
Aunt K.K. — Kayetie — maneuvered the child-safe doorknob cover to let him outside, he added.
Tallynn has been in therapy since the homicides and has expressed to his counselor regret about not being able to help his mother.
Using figures in play therapy, his therapist describes scenarios and Tallynn talks about what he wishes he could have or would have done.
“They were really, really, really close,” Charon, 61, said of Tallynn, who’s now 6, and Rebeika.
The tragedy in his young life was further compounded when he witnessed the shooting death of his uncle, Mark Masingale Jr., by Charon’s then-boyfriend, Charles Eugene Johnson, at their home 10 months later.
Masingale’s death was ruled an act of self defense by then-DA Tim Harris’ office despite Charon’s witness account and strenuous objections to the contrary. No criminal charges have been filed against Johnson in that case.
Tallynn went through a bout of being prone to outbursts — screaming, crying, defiance — which led to him being transferred between four preschools before they subsided. Tallyn’s pre-school called Charon numerous times last year to pick him up due to behavior, she said. He started at a new TPS site this fall and his behavior has improved.
Charon is unsure how much the deaths contributed to the issue but notes certain things seem to trigger her grandson, such as anyone trying to physically restrain him. She speculated other fits could be due to his age.
For months after his mother’s death, Tallynn would cry out for his “mama.”
Charon eventually broke down and told him, “I know. I want your mommy, too.”
More recently she’s noticed him in deep thought on occasion and when she asks what he’s thinking about he’ll tell her his mom and the things they used to do together.
He also has what they call “a God phone” that he uses to call and talk to Rebeika a few times a week. But he still asks for her from time to time.
He “hurts for her comfort” when he’s frustrated or sad, Charon said, wiping tears from her eyes.
Court records show Rebeika was granted an emergency protective order against Tallynn’s father, David Alexander, seven months after Tallynn was born. The order was dismissed upon her request six months later.
Online case notes indicate Alexander was ordered to complete anger management classes.
Rebeika allowed Alexander sporadic visitation with his son before her death. He has not sought custody of Tallynn.
“I’ve sat and thought ‘What would I do without Tallynn? … What would I live for?’” Charon said.
Charon is doing what she can to give Tallynn a stable home with the emotional support he needs after the loss of his mother and aunt.
He’s become the center of her world and she strives to make happy memories with him, like encouraging him to practice whistling until he feels the pride of accomplishment when he finally achieves his goal.
Celebrations are top-notch. For his sixth birthday party, she rented adjoining hotel rooms for him and about a dozen friends, including Kayetie Powell Melchor’s 8-year-old daughter.
The children raucously invaded the hotel’s pool and hot tub before returning to the rooms to dig into a soccer-themed sheet cake and test out Tallynn’s new toys, including the radio-controlled trucks that topped his wish list.
Christmas came with a children’s motorcycle and shiny blue helmet.
She and family members of the other victims are in settlement negotiations with Fairmont Terrace Apartments; the complex’s former owners, 1574 Pacific LLC and D.K. Ukiah Properties; property management company Lynco Inc, and a contracted security company as part of a suit alleging lax security and other shortcomings.
Separate jury trials for Cedric and James Poore were scheduled for October but had to be delayed after prosecutors discovered days shy of the first trial that certain investigative police records were not turned over to them or the case’s defense attorneys.