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2 brothers killed in same neighborhood, 10 years apart

Darcie Moran
The Ann Arbor News

Ypsilanti Township — Eric Lee Hargrove Jr. and Shaunel Lee Vawters shared many traits, as brothers often do.

They were both great cooks, they both loved to dance, they both liked to poke fun at their little sister and they both loved their family, said Erica Lee Hargrove, their 32-year-old sister.

They also were both known by their childhood nicknames — “Butter” for Eric Hargrove and “Shake” for Shaunel Vawters.

Now, their common traits followed them into death.

Eric Lee Hargrove and Shaunel Lee Vawters were shot and killed in their Ypsilanti Township neighborhood, just a street and 10 years apart.

“Everything was deja vu,” Erica Hargrove said. “From the call, from getting to the hospital, from getting carried out of the hospital.”

She said she got both calls about her brothers’ shootings while on the way to work.

Shaunel Vawters was shot and killed at the age of 32 about 7:30 a.m. July 19, 2005, while bicycling in the 800 block of Nash Avenue.

Eric Hargrove, 38, was shot and killed about 10:20 p.m. Nov. 1, 2015, in the 800 block of Desoto Avenue after answering a knock on his door.

The passage of time never healed the wound of the family’s loss from the death of Vawters, who left six children behind, said Erica Hargrove.

Although Vawters had a different father, the three siblings were raised by their mother, Doris Rougeau, and Erica Hargrove’s father, Eric Lee Hargrove Sr., who died in 1995, she said. They were extremely close and her brothers taught her everything from how to tie her shoes to how to ride a bicycle.

Erica Hargrove said she’s shed a tear every day since her oldest brother was killed in 2005. Her second brother’s death is the worst fear of her and her mother realized.

“This is a pain that I can’t ever explain,” Rougeau said of losing two sons.

“It’s so overwhelming and I always keep guessing and wondering what’s going to happen next.”

Doris Rougeau said she still wants answers in her first son’s death.

Vawters was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital at 9 a.m. July 19, 2005, after someone in a vehicle shot him multiple times in the chest, the Ann Arbor News reported in 2005.

He had about 14 gunshot wounds, according to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office in the court case.

James Frierson initially was charged with open murder and four weapons charges in Vawters’ death, but the case was dismissed, court records show.

Court records show the case was dismissed after a 10-year-old witness testified at a preliminary examination that he could not recall what happened or what he told police.

At the time of the dismissal, the Ann Arbor News reported that Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Mackie said the case could be brought in the future if a witness was found.

Court records do not indicate that Frierson was ever charged again in the matter. Officials from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office were not able immediately able to comment on the status of the case.

Eric Hargrove Jr.’s fiancee, Luneshia Williams, previously told the newspaper that she and Hargrove decided to go out to get pizza shortly before his death.

She said about 10 to 15 minutes after they returned home, there was a knock at door.

“He said, ‘Who would be at my house?’ And I said I didn’t know,” she said. “He went to the door and I just heard a loud boom.”

Williams said she was drying off from taking a shower when she heard the boom. Her children, who were present, ran to the back of the house.

“I saw him laying there, his legs were out the door and the top of his body was inside the house,” she said of when she saw Eric Hargrove. “I just immediately started doing life support.”

Police were called to the location about 10:20 p.m., said Derrick Jackson of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

Eric Hargrove was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.

Police believe the suspect is a black man in his 20s. Police released a composite sketch of the suspect in the shooting.

Jackson said there were no updates in the case Nov. 9. Family indicated they did not know of any arrests in the matter.

“They took a big part of our lives,” Erica Hargrove said. “Whoever it is … they need to come forward.

“This here, he didn’t deserve it. Whatever they had going on within their life, they didn’t have to take my brother.”

Hargrove is . angry and heartbroken.

“I find myself crying in my sleep,” she said. “I wake up because I want it to be a dream … I want him to call and let me know that he’s all right.”

Court records show both brothers had criminal histories, both involving fleeing, resisting, or assaulting police and controlled substances, but Hargrove said they were much more than these charges.

She said shortly before Eric Hargrove’s death, she wrote on social media as part of the “Man Crush Monday” phenomenon a post to recognize the work he had done to become a better man.

He had been working at an area factory for about a year and was working long hours, she said. She believed he wanted to settle down and have children of his own with his fiancee.

The brothers both liked to give the people they loved a hard time, she recalled with a laugh as she remembered how Eric Hargrove and she would joke about who the true older sibling was.

Eric Hargrove loved football and would get together with friends to cook and watch the Detroit Lions every Sunday.

He also had a great smile and was always trying to make people happy.

As a mother, Rougeau said she’s leaned on her faith to get her through the losses she’s suffered.

“God will take this mess and use it for good,” she said.

She also hopes for justice in her sons’ deaths.

“I’m going to be praying for all (who are) involved,” she said. “The Lord is not the author of confusion … you cannot serve two masters.”