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Frustration shelved for night to honor Detroit victims

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Grosse Pointe Park — The families of Paige Stalker and Christina Samuel are frustrated no arrests have been made a year after the two were gunned down in separate Detroit shootings, but they put those feelings aside Tuesday to celebrate their lives.

Chris Samuel, left, and David Lawrence have forged a close friendship over their shared grief.

Despite more than $150,000 in reward money raised by Stalker’s friends, police say they are no closer to finding the perpetrators, with no new clues in either case.

“There just haven’t been any tips,” said Detroit Police Homicide Lt. Joseph Tiseo. “We’re still working these cases as best we can, but nobody is coming forward. We want the families to know we’re doing the best we can.”

Family and friends, meanwhile, gathered Tuesday to honor the two victims.

“We just wanted to have an evening of celebrating Paige’s life, and the wonderful person she was, rather than the horrible remembrance of last year,” said Paige’s mother, Jennifer.

She joined a small group of friends and family at her father’s Grosse Pointe Park home Tuesday for an evening of prayer, reflection and holiday music, provided by a live band.

Paige was hanging out with friends on Detroit’s east side the evening of Dec. 22 when a gunman opened fire on their car, killing the 16-year-old honor student and wounding three others.

Samuel, left, and Stalker

Two days later, on Christmas Eve, Samuel was sitting in a car with a friend, also on the city’s east side, when a man fired shots into the vehicle, killing her.

David Lawrence, Paige’s grandfather, who hosted Tuesday’s get-together, said he’s been investigating the case on his own, talking to potential witnesses and providing information to police.

“We hear a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve got a quite a file. I think we’re close.

“There’s plenty of people who know who killed Paige and Christina. They won’t talk out of fear.”

Police have long expressed frustration with Detroit’s “no snitch” culture, and have enacted several programs to strengthen the bond with citizens, including employing Neighborhood Police Officers, who give their cell phone numbers to residents and make themselves available to hear complaints and suggestions.

Even when there are hundreds of witnesses to shootings, such as incidents this summer at large block parties, often nobody comes forward.

It’s especially difficult in cases where there are few witnesses. Still, Tiseo said, he’s surprised nobody has come forward in the Stalker case.

“That’s mind-boggling, since there’s so much reward money,” he said. “Some of these guys on the street would turn in their own mothers for that kind of money.”

Samuel, who has forged a close friendship with Lawrence over the past year, said he understands police have their hands full.

“There’s a lot going on in this city,” he said. “Hopefully, eventually, we’ll get some justice. I have faith in the Detroit Police Department to get justice.

“We just need to get people to come forward with information. Everyone says they want to make their neighborhoods safe, but when something happens, nobody wants to cooperate with the police.”

Paige aspired to be a doctor, and volunteered at a local hospital. Samuel, 22, was a college graduate who was planning to earn a master’s degree in criminology to become a probation officer.

Their dreams may have been snuffed out, but both families say some good has come from the tragedies, with support coming from sources known and anonymous.

Pink and green ribbons have been hung from trees and homes in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park to remember Paige.

In another show of support, seniors at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods created a scholarship to honor Paige, who would have graduated from the school this May.

“I was so excited about that,” Lawrence said. “As a grandfather, it was so gratifying to hear all the nice things her classmates said about her. It’s true: She really was a wonderful person.”

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