Suspect in activist’s death fathered her kids

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Jail records show the father of two of Shequita Lewis’s children is behind bars on an open murder charge.

Darien Ray Gilleylen, 36, has not been officially charged in Lewis’s death.

On Monday, Kalamazoo public safety officials found Lewis, a 33-year-old community activist and mother, shot in the chest in the kitchen of the home where Gilleylen was living. She died later at the hospital.

24 Hour News 8 has learned that Lewis went to the home on Church Street near Paterson to pick up one of the children she shared with Gilleylen. 

Police have not publicly named the suspect, saying only that they found a man on the front porch who claimed he had shot Lewis. 

Court records obtained by 24 Hour News 8 show several filings related to unpaid child support. 

Lewis’ family members would not comment Tuesday on the police investigation, but did share their thoughts about the woman who was considered a rising star in community activism. 

“She was going to make something happen in Kalamazoo,” the victim’s sister Chiquita Lewis said. “She was almost there.”

Shequita Lewis ran for a seat on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners in 2018, but lost to Michael Seals in a tight election.

“It’s a travesty,” County Commissioner Stephanie Moore, who backed Lewis’ run, said of her death.

She said Lewis overcame a tough start in life to become a great mom and community advocate.

“She had the most potential and she was ready. She was hungry to work, to learn, to give back, to empower,” Moore said.

Even as Lewis worked to affect positive change in the community, she was first and foremost a devoted single mother to nine children, five of whom lived with her. 

“She wanted her kids to know that if you make a mistake you can turn it around as soon as possible and she was big on them with that,” her sister said, also praising Lewis for pushing her children to excel academically. “All her kids are super smart and she stays on them about that.”

Chiquita Lewis says her sister cared deeply for her own children but also for the community as a whole.

“If anybody comes to her, she’s there, open hands. She feeds these kids around here. She loved everybody. This right here is her community,” she said.

On Tuesday, at the apartment complex where Lewis lived, a young neighbor named Jade broke down in tears talking about the woman who did so much for her.

“I was just with her and it’s kind of hard to lose somebody you were just with,” Jade said. “Because all the fun you had and the memories that you made.”

A boy named Arieon also shared how kind Lewis was to the kids.

“She was a loving person… she did a lot for the community. I’m going to miss her so much,” Arieon recalled.

Lewis’s family is working to get guardianship over the children. They’re asking the community for support and prayers.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting told 24 Hour News 8 he expects to review the case against Gilleylen Wednesday and make a charging decision.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Lewis’s family pay for funeral expenses.

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