Katrina Moore remembers one Christmas as a child when her grandmother took a branch off the pecan tree behind her house and carefully removed all the leaves. She wrapped the bare branch with aluminum foil and taped some penny candy from her store to it.
“It was our Christmas tree,” Moore said. “She was a creative woman.”
It has been 15 years since 83-year-old Rosa Lee Barnes, or Big Mama, handed her grandchild to his mother and headed to bed. Minutes later, her home was sprayed with bullets. She was hit six times and died.
“People need to understand when you take a life like that, violently, it affects everyone around that person for the rest of their lives,” Moore said.
On Saturday afternoon, Moore and her family invited other families hurt by violent crime to a “stop the killing” march and vigil starting at Barnes’ home on Eighth Avenue in Augusta. Dozens showed up wearing shirts with Barnes’ face on them.
Leading the march was Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders, who was an assistant district attorney on Barnes’ case and is still close with the family.
“That case took a lot of work,” he said. “It meant a lot to this family and this neighborhood.”
Three men were convicted, though one, Lorenzo Lindsey, was acquitted on a technicality. A few years later, he was convicted of hiring someone to kill the state’s key witness against him. In 2009, Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet sentenced him to life in prison plus five years.
Barnes owned a small grocery store a few doors down from her house where she watched her grandchildren daily. It has since been knocked down, but Moore said she is in the process of trying to buy the land from the county.
Moore said the family gets together each July to remember her and to remind neighbors of the impact the violence had on them.
“It breaks my heart my kids won’t get to grow up with her wisdom,” Moore said. “She loved God and had such a strong faith. She really listened when you had something you needed to talk about.”
Barnes’ family hopes to build a halfway house for the homeless in the lot where the store used to be.
“That’s what she was about,” Moore said.