Laylah Washington would be turning three years old this month but instead of planning a birthday party, her mother, Leslie Washington, will be visiting her daughter’s grave. The toddler was shot in the head during an apparent road rage incident last June. More than seven months later, her killer still hasn’t been arrested.
“Someone knows something,” Washington said. “If you know and won’t come forward, I think you are just as guilty as the person who did it.”
Memphis Police Department officers said they’ve been working hard to make strides in the case. Still, little progress has been made in finding Laylah’s killer.
“This was a baby, barely walking, at two years old. That’s shameful that no one has come forward and said, ‘I know who did this.’ Someone needs to be calling us,” MPD Major Lambert Ross said.
Last Thursday, MPD held the first session in what is projected to be a series of meetings with the media to discuss the unsolved murders in the city. The hope is that the increased media coverage will bring in more tips from the public that could aid in investigations. Each week there will be a focus on a different case. The first was Laylah’s.
In 2017 there were 200 homicides reported in Memphis, with 17 of the victims being children. Seventy-one of the cases, including Laylah’s, have remained unsolved.
On Tuesday, police held another meeting. This time they asked for the community’s help in finding the killer of 25-year-old Jonathan Booker, who was shot last month by a stray bullet while leaving a club in the Edge District.
“We all need to be engaged when it comes to solving the crimes in the city,” Ross said. “This is a place where we all live.”
Police said they have received about 50 tips in Laylah’s case, but none since September. Washington said she believes that there is more that can be done to find her daughter’s killer.
“You have multiple people dying in Memphis every day, so I know it can be hectic for the police department, but I’m scared that it’s pushing Laylah’s case to the back. I don’t know if they are giving me 100 percent,” she said. “I refuse to believe that the police can’t zoom in and get the tag numbers or the make and model of the car.”
Washington is referring to the black sedan she believes followed her the day Laylah was shot. While picking up her teenage sons from work on June 11, she recalled seeing cars driving wildly in the parking lot. When one of them almost hit her, she yelled a warning to the driver. That’s when she said someone in the car responded, but she couldn’t understand what was being said. It was a quick encounter and she thought it was over.
Minutes later as she and her children were heading home, she heard gunshots.
“I didn’t even know that they were shooting at us until I heard the window bust,” she recalled. “Then my son yelled, ‘Mama, they’re shooting at us’ and my other son said Laylah had been shot.”
A bullet had hit the toddler in the head. Two days later, on June 13, Laylah died at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
“I have done everything I could to protect my kids, and this was the one time I couldn’t protect them.”
Washington said every morning before Laylah died, she would pray for the protection of her children. “I would say, ‘Lord watch over us and keep us away from hurt, harm or danger. Shield us from getting robbed, raped, kidnapped or murdered,’ and that’s exactly what happened to my daughter.”
The grieving mother said she now finds it hard to recite that same prayer. She hasn’t moved many of Laylah’s toys and doesn’t like being home alone.
“I don’t know if I’ll have to just move because I don’t like being at home because I think about Laylah too much.”
Washington said one of her sons constantly has nightmares, replaying the horrific details of that day in June. She said what makes the loss of her daughter even worse is the fact that her killer hasn’t been caught.
“I want people to put themselves in my shoes because this could have been anybody’s child. When you see her pictures, doesn’t that make you want to say something? There is a way to give a tip without saying who you are. How can you just watch me suffer like this?”
Washington said she’s not sure she will ever get closure, but hopes that she lives to see the day that her daughter’s killer is brought to justice.
If anyone has any information concerning the murder of Laylah or any of the other unsolved murders, call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.