Two Columbia men remain behind bars in the shooting death of Astrid Haynes, who was gunned down in October in what police say was a gang retaliation gone wrong.
But Haynes’ family, friends and neighbors will not forget the 32-year-old woman, an innocent whose life was cut short in the shooting in Columbia.
When her mother, Sharon Haynes, opened her door Wednesday, she was greeted by a crowd of her Melrose Heights community neighbors, arms full of Thanksgiving food, while two young girls stood on her front lawn and played “Silent Night” on their violins.
“That’s what I am talking about, the love of the community,” Haynes said. “Every tragedy doesn’t have to escalate into something negative. Just the outpouring of people’s love in other people’s time of need. These are my neighbors.”
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Although the people who brought the food to Sharon Haynes’ home might not have known Astrid personally, they said they still needed to show their support as a community.
“The Melrose Heights community, they just band together from different social, economic backgrounds it doesn’t matter,” Haynes said. “They are taking a stand against things that hurt families.”
On Oct. 8, Astrid Haynes was standing outside in a gathering at a neighbor’s home along Bratton Street, at the edge of Melrose Heights and the Lowery Waverly and Lyon Street neighborhoods. The neighbor had called Haynes for help regarding her son, who Columbia police said was a known gang member. Shortly after, two other known gang members are acused of driving by the home and firing several shots into the group of people gathered there. One bullet fatally wounded Haynes.
Haynes’ son, Isaiah, had turned 2 shortly before her death.
Jashawn Livingston, 20, and Charlie Kennedy III, 21, were arrested more than a month later, on Nov. 20, by the Midlands Gang Task Force. Each has been charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with Haynes’ killing. Kennedy also has been charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, according to law enforcement officials.
Those who knew Astrid Haynes saidshe will be remembered not only for her vibrant personality and caregiving of others but for being a doting mother.
“I remember how conscientious she was and how intelligent she was,” said Walker Covan, who taught Haynes eighth grade English at Hand Middle School. “Astrid had a lot of friends and everyone liked her and her other teachers liked her. Her mother did a wonderful job bringing her up.”
Neighbor Willy Howard Jr., who suffers from diabetes and other medical issues with his leg, said Haynes helped care for him.
“She would always come down and see how I was doing,” Howard said. “She doctored on my leg and it’s good now. She was just like my daughter and doctor.”
Haynes would often bring by Isaiah, who took a particular liking to him.
“Her son was like my grandchild,” Howard said. “First he was afraid of me, but then he got to liking me. I would leave to go to the commissary and bring him back peaches, bananas or just any kind of fruit. Every time that baby heard my car coming he would want to come up to my door.”
Howard, like many, said it was hard when he heard the news of Astric Haynes’ death.
“I broke down just like a little baby, and when I went to the funeral home I couldn’t take it,” Howard said. “I loved her in life and I love her in death. She was a very, very dear friend.”
Hunter Canty said Haynes owned and operated a home health care service called Bright Light Services, making house calls for anyone who needed help.
Canty said Haynes would help take care of Canty’s daughter, Margaret, who she said suffers from mental illness. Haynes based the name of her company on Margaret’s nickname, Canty said.
“She called Margaret her little bright light,” Canty said. “Margaret is bound to a wheelchair, so it’s not easy for her to move around. The physical aspect is hard to maneuver her, but that didn’t bother Astrid.”
Canty said Haynes would take Margaret and Isaiah to the pool in the summer and would accompany Canty while she took her daughter to summer camps.
“Astrid was a good friend to me because I trusted her completely with Margaret,” Canty said. “She would walk in the room with such a huge smile, and everybody was happy to see her. She would calm everything down.
“I don’t know of another person who was as nice, giving and kind as Astrid.”
Canty, a teacher at Brennen Elementary School in Columbia, said Haynes would often come by and help her with class projects and field trips.
Paul Goblirsch, a Brennen student, said he remembered Haynes coming to his first-grade class.
Wednesday, he brought food to Haynes’ mother.
“I bet her mom needed cheering up,” Goblirsch said.
Susan Ellison, who rented a house to Haynes on Bratton Street for several years, said her death is a tremendous loss.
“Here is this woman that was just so loved,” Ellison said. “She was caring and very popular with white and black people.”
Sharon Haynes said she didn’t know about her daughter’s outreach into the community until her funeral. There, she said, people came out in droves to show their support and share stories about her daughter.
“The sadness and the pain I felt was deep,” Sharon Haynes said. “But, seeing those people there was lifting me up and putting me on a cloud. It gave me peace to see that so many people loved my baby.”
Sharon Haynes said she raised Astrid and her two other daughters through the church and taught them to have a forgiving and loving nature.
She said she has forgiven Livingston and Kennedy, her daughter’s accused killers.
“I pray for them,” Sharon Haynes said. “I pray that they humble themselves, and that God gives them the love that Astrid had.”