AKRON, Ohio — Leah Russell and Nicole Boring did not know each other before 2022, but now the two are bound by tragedies. Their daughters were shot and killed in separate Akron incidents and both cases remain unsolved.
"We are kind of like each other's counselors. We're going through the exact same thing. Me and Leah talk quite a bit," Boring said.
The women are part of new Facebook group with a goal of ending violence in Akron. It's called "Stop the Silence! No More Violence!" The group, which has about 150 members so far, has been growing. Their signs are popping up throughout the city and display a police tip line number.
Organizers are planning an event from 3-4:30 p.m. on Aug. 21 at the Springfield Lake Pavilion on Canfield Road in Springfield Township. They're hoping to raise money for billboards, signs, flyers and t-shirts to honor victims and bring attention to unsolved murders.
"We want to do marches with all these kids, young adults, that have been murdered," Russell said.
"This is not just for our families. This is for anybody that has lost a loved one through street violence," Boring added.
During interviews with News 5, the moms fought through tears and clutched pictures of their daughters, Atavia Robinson and Chelsey Jones.
On June 26, Robinson, 20, was shot and killed moments after she left a movie theater in Chapel Hill. Her boyfriend was wounded.
Russell said her daughter was a free spirit with a huge heart who loved being an aunt and wanted to have children one day.
"Families are being destroyed. Our family has been destroyed," Russell said. "Innocent people are dying. Whoever is doing it, they don't care about life. They don't have a heart. They don't value people."
Eight days later, Chelsey Jones, a 26-year-old phlebotomist, and mother of two girls, was killed after a bullet pierced a window of her home on Summit Lake Boulevard and struck her in the head as she sat on a couch.
Police have compared her death to "astronomical odds" and are working on a theory that a random shot may have been fired more than 1,000 feet away across Summit Lake by someone celebrating the Fourth of July.
Boring isn't convinced the bullet came from that far away.
"To me, it seem like it was more front yard than it was across there," she said.
Summit County CrimeStopppers has offered rewards up to $5,000 for information leading to arrests and indictments in the cases. In addition, Russell said an additional $15,000 has been raised to go towards the reward in her daughter's case.
"She deserves justice. She did not deserve what happened to her. We just want people to speak. I know that people know what happened," Russell said.
Boring said losing her daughter suddenly continues to take a physical and emotional toll on her.
"My doctor has put me on sedatives just so I sleep at night because I don't sleep. I quit eating. Her brother and sister— they're destroyed right now without her because she was kind of like the glue that holds everybody together," she said. "Somebody pulled the trigger of a gun and it took my daughter's life. They're still walking. She's not."
There have been 33 murders in Akron in 2022— the same amount from this time last year. Last year ended with 42 murders. In 2020, there were 50 murders, which police said was a record for the city.
Among the 2022 murders, 14 have been solved meaning no one has been charged in nearly 60% of the cases.
Deputy Chief Brian Harding said the department is also very concerned about gun violence and steps have been taken to address the issue.
APD has taken more than 600 guns off the streets in 2022. Nearly 1,300 guns were seized last year.
Through a grant, the department has also added about a dozen officers to late-night shifts on the weekends throughout the summer when crime is a bigger worry.
The department's authorized strength is 470 officers. Currently, there are 430 officers with more help on the way.
"Like most of the country, we're down. We're gonna have 21 new officers who are going to hit the streets in the middle of September. We're real excited about that to get them the help to supplement our patrol shifts who are understaffed," Harding said.
The city of Akron is also using a portion of American Rescue Plan dollars to fund organizations that focus on youth mentoring and crime reduction.
Anyone with information on unsolved cases is urged to call Summit County Crimestoppers at 330-434-COPS.