Update: "I came to town to celebrate a life and ended up having to mourn a death."
These are the words of Savina Billups, who traveled from Florida to Colorado last week in order to attend a birthday party for her mom that was scheduled for Friday, June 26.
But there was no celebration that day. The evening before, Billups's cousin, Camille Harrell, was fatally shot at East Colfax's Sand & Sage Motel. Billups says she died while defending Carmen, her twin sister.
Carmen turned thirty on Tuesday, June 30 — but because Camille wasn't there to share the occasion, reaching this benchmark was decidedly bittersweet.
Our previous coverage of the shooting at the Sand & Sage is below. As we noted, two people have been arrested for the crime: Brandon Foote, 29, and Merita Curry, 34.
According to Billups, the sisters were staying at the motel because "they were in the process of getting an apartment." It's her understanding that on the night of the 25th, Foote and Curry, who were known to the sisters, broke into the room where Carmen was sleeping "and jumped on her."
Billups is unclear about their motives — but she says Camille was alerted to what was going on and came to Carmen's defense.
She had a gun and fired warning shots, to which Foote allegedly pulled a trigger of his own. Camille was shot once in the room, then ran outside to an alley.
Foote is believed to have followed and shot her again, inflicting her fatal wounds. She was pronounced dead a few hours later.
Camille "had a demeanor — she looked very tough," Billups points out. "But she was really a very sweet person. And her main thing was, 'I am my sister's keeper.' She felt that way about her whole family. She had four sisters and a brother and she would always protect them.
"She was not a person who would initiate anything. It would be, 'If you mess with my family, I'm going to defend my family.' But she was very kind. She would give someone the shirt off her back. She may have seemed scary, but once you got to know her, she was absolutely beautiful inside and out."
A GoFundMe page has been created to raise funds for Camille's memorial, which takes place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 4 at Taylor Mortuary Denver Chapel; click here for more information. Here's the introduction to the GoFundMe page:
Camille was a gentle giant who laid her life down for her twin sister. She took pride in being her sisters’ keeper and came anytime she was called. On June 25, 2015 Camille was brutally murdered for saving her sister from two assailants that ambushed her. We are trying are to raise money to ensure this beautiful GIANT can be given a burial that is suitable for a SHERO! Camille is loved by many and will be forever missed, please help Camille receive the true honor that she deserves!
At this writing, just shy of $1,500 has been raised toward a $3,500 goal.
A candlelight vigil for Camille took place this past Sunday. See photos from that event below, interspersed with images of Camille. They're followed by our previous coverage.
Update, 9:43 a.m. June 29: Last week, we told you about a homicide at East Colfax's Sand & Sage, once described as a "last-stop motel," that took the life of a young woman; see our previous coverage below.
The Denver coroner's office hasn't released the identity of the victim at this writing.
However, not one but two arrests have been made in the case.
Merita Curry, 34, turned herself in to authorities, while Brandon Foote, 29, was taken into custody on Saturday.
As we've reported, Denver police officers responded to the Sand & Sage just shy of 10 p.m. on Thursday, June 25.
There, they found a woman in her twenties suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.
She was transported to an area hospital, but she didn't respond to medical treatment.
In the early morning hours of June 26, the DPD tweeted that she'd been declared dead.
That afternoon, the DPD revealed in a press release that Curry, also known as Merita Swanson, had handed herself over to authorities after the latter ID'd her as someone wanted in connection with the crime.
Not so Foote, who was the subject of an arrest warrant. He was thought to be driving a white 2000 GMC Yukon with Colorado license plate 594-UAS. Here's a photo shared by the department of a vehicle like the one being targeted.
Then, on Saturday, June 27, the Department tweeted the following:
As the last line of the message above implies, investigators have not yet shared specifics about the arrest, a possible motive in the case or even details of what happened beyond the fact that first reports about gunfire near the Sand & Sage were followed by calls about additional gunfire on the block.
Look below to see a photo of Foote shared prior to his capture, plus the mug shot featuring Curry. They're followed by our previous coverage.
Original post, 5:35 a.m. June 26: In 2008, the Denver Post published an article set at East Colfax's Sand & Sage under the banner "Families Reach Last-Stop Motel."
Sadly, this headline proved to be prophetic in the case of a woman in her twenties.
She's dead and the person who shot her is on the loose at this writing.
Here's what we know thus far.
First official word of the shooting came just shy of 10 p.m. yesterday, June 25, via this Denver Police Department tweet:
The address corresponds to the Sand & Sage Motel, one of several such establishments along this stretch of Colfax. Look below to see an interactive graphic of the location; if you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."
A few hours after its initial tweet, during the early part of Friday morning, the DPD shared a followup containing a grim update:
Thus, there's a homicide investigation underway.
But as noted in both of the DPD's messages, no details about suspects is being shared at this time — and at this writing, the victim has yet to be identified.
Our condolences to her friends, family and loved ones.