Still no arrests after Durham woman killed by celebratory gunfire a year ago

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Sunday marked one year since 74-year-old Paulette Thorpe was killed by a stray bullet on Independence Day. There are no suspects and no charges in the case.

Through song and prayer, her family continues to try to heal.

Several dozen family members gathered Sunday at Beechwood Cemetary where Thorpe was buried to remember her legacy on the anniversary of her death.

“It’s been a year so it’s been a struggle,” said her nephew, Carlos Lyons.

Paulette Thorpe in a photo from her family.

A year without Thorpe still weighs heavy.

“She was just a loveable person. We could always go to her house. She had an open door. We had a good time,” said Lyons.

Last year, the 74-year-old was sitting on a friend’s porch celebrating Independence Day along the 500 block of Burlington Avenue. A stray bullet pierced her chest.

Police said it was the result of celebratory gunfire. Thorpe died a short time after arriving at the hospital. 

“Your bullet has to come down somewhere and nobody wants to be on the end of that phone call that your loved one got killed or injured because of something senseless,” said Lyons.

He and the Durham Police Department want to remind people to think before they shoot. This year, the police department shared a video tribute to Thorpe.

It serves as a reminder of the deadly consequence of shooting aimlessly into the air.

No one has come forward to claim responsibility and the family doesn’t know where the bullet may have come from.

“That’s probably the most hurtful part. We don’t have any answers. It’s gone (to) a cold case because they can’t find anybody,” Lyons said.

Through the pain, he and the family have stuck together.

The family’s pastor, Wayne Wilhelm, led them in prayer during a graveside balloon release Sunday afternoon.

“This family is full of love, full of laughter, full of life,” he told CBS 17.

Paulette Thorpe

He said their ability to smile today is a result of their faith in God.

“That’s who they are. Just trusting in God and knowing, again, that he can help this process,” Wilhelm said.

The family wants the person responsible or anyone who knows the suspect to understand they are not angry.

“We’re a forgiving family and that’s the biggest thing. We are blessed. We love everyone and we forgive everyone,” said Christopher Tyson.

As they released balloons in Thorpe’s favorite team colors- navy for Duke and Dallas – they released any resentments.

“We’re not hateful people, We just want people to be accountable,” said Lyons.

Anyone with information regarding this shooting is asked to call CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200.

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