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Family remembers victim

Like clockwork, Tayeisha Shelton Vaughn’s cell phone would ring every morning. She did not even have to open her eyes to know who was calling. She just knew the display would read “Sammy D,” and when she picked it up, she would hear her brother, Dontay Shelton, on the other end.

“Every morning, he didn’t miss a beat,” she said. “He’d go, ‘You up sis? You on your way?’ He was like my alarm.”

Never again.

Shelton, 28, died early Sunday morning, the victim of a gunshot wound to the chest.

News of his death was fresh on her mind, her nerves, her heart as Vaughn talked about her brother Monday afternoon.

His mother, Gwendolyn Shelton, said he always had a grin on his face that was a mile-wide from the time he was born. Gwendolyn said he was spoiled rotten, but that was just fine with her.

“He was the most prettiest little baby you ever wanted to see,” she said. “Big eyes and curly hair. He started walking, and he was something else.”

Shelton and his sister were inseparable growing up together in Selma. He was older, but Vaughn said he often called her for advice. It was tough on her when he moved to Montgomery four years ago to work as a tree trimmer. But when he came home, it was like a family reunion.

Shelton was met with the smell of fried fish as he walked into his sister’s house Friday. She knew he was coming, so she had begun preparing the house. His aunt, Ella Field, said Shelton loved three things — his daughters, Dontevia, 8, and Samya, 3, his family and his food.

“He loved down home cooking,” Field said. “Macaroni and cheese, collard greens.”

“And banana pudding,” added his mother.

On Saturday, Shelton washed his pearl white Chevrolet Silvarado pickup and bought a new pair of boots.

That evening, he, his sister and a cousin patronized a downtown club, where they shared drinks, laughed and caught up on old times, people and friends.

Then came the phone call. Shelton left.

Thirty minutes later, Vaughn received a call to come to the emergency room at Vaughan Medical Center.

After Vaughn arrived to check on her brother, friends began to flock in as news spread around town. Phone calls came in from all over — New Jersey to Las Vegas. By daylight Sunday morning, there was standing room only in Vaughn’s house.

Her brother had a bright future. He’d just received a promotion at work to supervisor. He had goals, his family said.

They miss him, referring often to his grin; his presence.

“He was like a light,” Vaughn said. “Every time I look at his picture, he’s shining.”