SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Losing a child is unimaginable; losing your child in another state 600 miles away three weeks before their 22 birthday is impossible.
“The community as a whole is just, shattering, it’s incomprehensible and it is a hole, a big hole that’s ripped,” said Misha-El Baskerville, the mother of Ayanna Morgan. “The community is torn apart, the family is torn apart. She had so much more life to live.”
Communities across the country are at a loss for words after the brutal killing of the 21-year-old Savannah native. Police say the Western Kentucky University student was beaten, shot and run over by a group of men.
As friends and family celebrate her birthday, they remember Morgan’s caring nature.
“She was always the one doing everything for everyone else, generous and just going above and beyond. Even at a young age, she would take the initiative to cook or to clean if someone needed help, said Baskerville.
Being the oldest of five, Morgan, often called “Big Mama,” fit the role perfectly for her caring and kind demeanor. She was funny and loved to dance, finding her love for the art at the Sankofa Center for the Arts, performing alongside her mother and sisters.
Being gentle with an old soul, do not take her kindness for weakness, because she’s remembered as a fierce defender of others.
“If someone was doing something wrong, or it doesn’t matter how minute it may have been to others, but she would say something, respectfully,” said Baskerville. “She always stood in the gap for those who weren’t able to stand for themselves.”
Morgan later developed a love for animals, often taking in strays at a young age. The talent to heal animals spoke to her, inspiring her to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
Morgan attended Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky doing everything right. She went to school and she worked two jobs to pay for school, checking off all the boxes for any parent who sends their child off to college.
Baskerville had no cause for concern for her daughter until the night of July 23, 2023.
A senseless act of violence
According to local news reports, at the Muse Apartment Complex on July 23, a surveillance video caught a confrontation between Morgan and the three men. They’re seen punching and stomping on her head before taking her gun and shooting her multiple times. Then, it appears she was run over in the parking lot, a detective testified.
Helped by a bystander who called the police, Morgan fought for air before passing away while being transported to a hospital in Nashville.
Only 24-year-old Kobee Lancaster, the driver, turned himself in while the other two suspects, Malik Jones, 30, and his twin brother Malcolm Jones, are still on the loose.
“They don’t care, because if they did, they would turn themselves in and realize that they took a life, that they took someone from this Earth who just had so much, promise,” said Baskerville.
“I think people have this misconception when people are victims of violent crimes like that, something they did or something in the way that they were living their lifestyle may have contributed to what happened to them,” said Chelsea Allen, a family friend who started a GoFundMe to support the family. “And in Ayanna’s case, it’s just an example of this can happen to anyone.”
The GoFundMe, as of now, raised almost half of its goal of $20,000 to aid Baskerville with taking care of four kids.
“Now there’s a criminal aspect, so now the family’s having to go back and forth to Kentucky from across the country, so there’s so much expense involved in something like this,” said Allen.
The money donated will also go towards funeral proceedings and to provide peace of mind to grieve without thinking of the next bill that is due.
“There’s so much in our culture, especially with young men, where they feel it’s cool to be tough and it’s cool to be killers,” said Allen.
On average, 40,000 deaths in America are due to firearms annually. Baskerville and Allen want to take this opportunity to spread awareness of gun violence and what it does to a community.
“It’s going to be ongoing. How I see it, screaming to the rooftops on awareness of gun violence overall,” said Baskerville.
She says gone are the days of chivalrous men. “I don’t know in what lifetime it would ever be OK for a man to put their hands on a woman in the way that my daughter had to endure.”
For Morgan’s birthday, there will be a red balloon release at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday. Baskerville encourages anyone at that time to take a quick moment of silence for her daughter who will forever be 21. There will be several vigils held across the country throughout the month of August in remembrance.
“I know situations are different. It could be dangerous but just have the compassion to want to help, don’t, don’t just stand there,” said Baskerville. “Don’t just stand there and watch somebody get hurt and just stand there and look.”
Baskerville explains how Morgan’s friends and boyfriend helped her find some peace of mind through the stories they would tell her about her daughter. She says this also showed her that Morgan had a good group of people surrounding her who loved her.
The Sexton Hall Funeral Home has set up a website where anyone can light a candle, leave a memory or plant a tree in memory of Morgan.
The family also received letters of condolences from the Kentucky House of Representatives, the Kentucky General Assembly as well as Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.
“We’re so thankful for the support, I’m telling you the support of my tribe, of my community, not just from Georgia but Alaska, San Diego and Kentucky, it’s just been overwhelming in a good way,” said Baskerville. “I’m so thankful to have the people who love us.”
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Malik Jones or Malcolm Jones, you’re asked to call your local police department or Crime Stoppers at 270-781-CLUE.
“Love more with your loved ones. You just never know when that time is called, but take advantage of the time that we do have together,” said Baskerville.