GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Just over a year since the slayings of 47-year-old Cherletta Baber-Bey and her niece and best friend, Keyona Griffin, who had just turned 25 less than a week earlier, the family of these women has worked to keep their memories alive in the minds of the public and the police.

In the front of the home on Sheldon Street SE, balloons and memorials remain, and the reminders are on the vehicles of the family who talked to News 8 Wednesday on the porch of the home.

Despite a two-decade age difference, the two women were very close.

“Keyona, she was just a brilliant smile, she lit up a room when she walked in and she was a ride or die. If she was for you, she was for you. If she wasn’t, she wasn’t,” said Jaqueline Baber-Bey who lost her daughter and granddaughter on March 13, 2019.

“She was just a sweetheart, just a sweetheart. She’d do anything for anybody … I just miss her.”

Jaqueline Baber-Bey said her daughter lived with her since birth and they did all things, together while Cherletta Baber-Bey never married or had children but wanted to do so.

She graduated to Central High School and worked at Eerdman’s Publishing and was planning to get education to go into another field.

“Some people say when you have children, when they’re teenagers, they give you trouble or they did this, Cher never did that, she was like a model daughter,” Baber-Bey said. “She was my Rock of Gibraltar. I used to always say that.”

Reminders of Cherletta Bayber-bey and Keyona Griffin on a family membe’s’ car. (March 18, 2020)

Her daughter, Onyah Griffin, lost her older sister and her daughter.

“Cherletta always saw the good in people and she just trusted that he was a good person and Keyona could see right through him,” Griffin said, describing Derrell Demon Brown, 45.

Cherletta Baber-Bey met Brown at the library.

The family says Brown was Cherletta Baber-Bey’s first serious boyfriend who, despite the fact he did not hold a job and was a conspiracy theorist, was accepted by the family because she was so in love with him.

He also never showed any signs of violence or anything that would have made the family worry.

“Really, I was happy for him. For him to find somebody like Cherletta and then for me to be thinking, man, this brother is getting himself together,” said Sanford Cummings, Keyona Griffin’s godfather and the ex-brother-in-law of Cherletta Baber-Bey.

Authorities consider Brown a person of interest in the homicides and he hasn’t been seen since the two women were killed.

Derrell Brown _1552597517453.png.jpg
An undated photo of Derrell Demon Brown. (Grand Rapids Police Department)

“There were no red flags at all. That’s the reason why this is so maddening. Because what went wrong in that short span of time? … This man blindsided all of us … he betrayed us,” Jaqueline Baber-Bey said.

“Everything was fine, everything was fine, then my grandson called me up at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and he said Granny, come home, Granny.”

But not all of their anger is directed at the killer. The family believes the Grand Rapids Police Department dropped the ball.

“They didn’t take it serious because where we live at, who they thought we were. That didn’t mean anything to them because if it did mean something to them, they would have handled it better,” Baber-Bey said.

News 8 has worked for about a year to get the 911 calls and police video that family says shows police did not respond to the call for help the way they should have.

Before police were called to this home the afternoon of March 13, 2019 to find the bodies shot to death at the home, they were called three hours earlier by Keyona telling them that someone was trying to kill her.

News 8 tried to get that audio, but police will only release a transcript of the call.

After Grand Rapids police denied the release of the audio from last March, we appealed the denial before three members of the city commission who sided with police who claimed releasing the audio was a violation of privacy.

But whose privacy is not clear.

“You won’t release Keyona’s … Let’s let the people hear what she said and how she said it because we heard it,” Cummings said.

This is what the transcript shows Griffin saying the last time anyone other than her killer heard her voice: “Can you hurry up please. I’m gonna die. He’s trying to kill me. He’s already killed my…”

The family has heard the 911 audio.

“She was like ‘Please, please come and help me, 553 Sheldon,’ that was her tone and you could hear her clearly just as I’m talking to you now,” Cummings said.

The family believes Keyona was hiding in a bedroom after Cherletta was killed and quietly trying to alert police.

News 8 did get the recording of the call from dispatch to officers.

“Suspicious condition … We have a female on the line whispering that someone is trying to assault her,” the dispatcher told officers over the radio.

“My daughter never said someone’s trying to assault me, she said someone is trying to kill me,” Griffin said.

Police do also get information from laptops in their patrol vehicles and when they get there one officer said “… trying to kill her.”

That same officer said, “Sounds like she could be ‘96,’ too, y’know.”

A 10-96 is a reference to a caller having potential mental issues — something the family says has no basis in fact.

Three officers stand at the door and knock repeatedly, look in windows and walk around the home.

After a few minutes and calling the number that made the 911 call, police leave.

“What was so senseless about this and just a tragedy and injustice is to walk up with no sense of urgency, no sense of importance, I mean just took their time,” Cummings said.

The family believes police should have gone in or at least gone all the way around the house and made sure they made contact with someone.

“At 1 o’clock you get another call to the same house and you come here, and you got to bring my family out in body bags because you didn’t care at 10 o’clock,” Baber-Bey said through tears.

“What am I going to tell my nieces and nephews now? Don’t do it because you don’t know if they’re going to help you when they come,” Girffin said.

Grand Rapids police would not talk about the situation Wednesday, but previously said that there simply wasn’t probable cause to enter the home based on the call alone.

The family and police are asking anyone who has any information to come forward to bring the man suspected of killing the women to justice.

“We want to bring him to justice, anyone out there who has information, it’s not too late,” Griffin said. “If it’s friends or family who know him or may be helping him, shame on you. I hope nothing happens to your family like this.”

You can call Grand Rapids police at 616.456.3400 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.