Family members of Dominique “Lesta” Marquis Janice, the 19-year-old murder victim who was pulled from a burning car Aug. 26, say they want to set the record straight regarding the young man’s character and the circumstances surrounding his tragic death. They deny that Janice was affiliated with any gang activities and deny that the shooting resulting in his death was drug-related, or at least that Janice himself was involved with drugs. They also believe that the man police apprehended and charged with the murder did not act alone.
According to news releases from the Orange Police Department, officers were dispatched at approximately 11:52 p.m. on Aug. 26 after getting a call about a car on fire at a dead end in the 700 block of Adams Street in Orange. Upon arrival at the scene, police observed a 2008 Chevrolet Impala pulled slightly off the road at the dead end. The car was on fire and smoke filled the interior. Just before the car became fully engulfed, officers pulled an unconscious male victim from the vehicle, police reported.
The man, later identified as Janice, was taken to Orange Baptist Hospital and pronounced dead. Subsequent investigation revealed Janice had been shot, which ultimately resulted in his death. OPD Captain Cliff Hargrave said after several witness interviews, 17-year-old Rashawn Dewayne Morris of Orange was arrested at approximately 11:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and charged with murder. He is being held at the Orange County Correctional Facility on $500,000 bond.
In an interview shortly after the arrest, police said it appeared Janice had been shot, and then the car set on fire. Hargrave said police believed the incident to have been drug-related and although both men were rumored to have gang affiliations, the murder was not gang-related.
“It was senseless,” Hargrave said of the shooting. “It really was.”
Mrs. Consuelo “Shawn” Turner, Janice’s mother, agreed the killing was senseless. She also said she wants people to know her son was a high school graduate on his way to college to be a process operator, a father and her best friend, not a gang member and not a drug user.
“See that picture right there?” Turner said motioning to a photo of Janice with his 8-month-old son in his arms. “That was his gang. That was the gang he was in.”
She described her son as loving.
“I could not have asked for anything more than I get from my boys,” Turner said.
Turner said she has worked in a nursing facility for the last 16 years and her son, who had no criminal record, was from a good home and good family.
“He comes from a nice family,” Turner said.
Her mother and Janice’s grandmother, Enza Craven, echoed the sentiment. “He came from a darn nice family,” she said. “He was getting ready to go back to college. The first thing police holler when they see it is a couple of young kids is that it is drug related.”
Nathesia Colbert, the mother of Janice’s 8-month-old son, said she did not know of Janice using drugs or being affiliated with any gangs either. In fact, she said she hoped to one day marry and raise a family with the murdered man.
“I would have asked him to marry me if he didn’t ask,” she said. “He was awesome.”
She said he was a wonderful father to their son.
“I think he may have spent even more time with him than I did,” she said, adding that they both loved spending time as a family.
Colbert said Janice was responsible and hard working, always coming through for her and their son.
“I never had to worry about diapers,” she said.
Turner, who said she was not allowed to see Janice after he was brought to the hospital, described the last time she saw him as he was leaving her house to go home the night he was killed.
“The last time I saw my son was that Monday night,” she recalled. “That was the last time I spoke to my son, and the words that came out of his mouth were, ‘Mama, I love you.’ As far as I knew, he was at home with his family.”
But he never made it home, she said.
Turner said she has a lot of questions about her son’s murder. She wants to know why police believe Morris was solely responsible for her son’s death even though she has heard rumors that there were other parties involved. She said she wonders why police did not tape off the crime scene where they found the vehicle and further investigate the area at the end of Adams Street, which is still covered with burned debris from the Impala where Janice’s body was discovered. She questions why her son’s cell phone was found on MLK Drive in Orange while his body was found on Adams Street. Most importantly to her, she said, she wants to know why. Why did Morris, and any others who might have been party to Janice’s death, kill her son?
She said Morris and Janice had known each other for years, having previously been neighbors growing up together.
“The kids knew each other,” Turner said of Morris and Janice. “I think they even played ball together. … Why would you take my kid’s life? Why would you take my son from me?”
She said she was not sure whether or not Morris was involved in drugs or affiliated with any gangs, but she was certain her son was not. She speculated that perhaps her son had stopped to give his old acquaintance a ride and things went terribly wrong, but she can only guess for now.
Orange Police could not be reached as of press time to answer any of the questions posed by Mrs. Turner but previously said it was their belief Morris acted alone.
Turner said she hopes the answers she is looking for will be revealed once the investigation is complete.
“I miss my baby,” Turner said. “I miss my kid.”