Drugs hobbled lives, relatives say

By Abrad · Jun 9, 2006 ·
  1. Abrad
    Justin D. Anderson
    Daily Mail Staff

    Friday June 09, 2006

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    The three people slain on the outskirts of St. Albans probably would not have ended up in the run-down house where they died had they never tried drugs.

    They seemed to have drugs in common, according to friends and family members.

    Dennis Lovejoy, 47, was an adroit bricklayer.

    Amanda Walker-Ingram, 31, got good grades in school and was just a "big-hearted," average kid growing up.

    Gregory Childress, 46, was described as

    a good car salesman with management potential.

    They were shot dead in Lovejoy's home on Riverside Drive in Amandaville before dawn on Tuesday.

    Police have charged Keith R. Jeffers, 30, of Alum Creek in the killings. But they aren't saying it was drug-related.

    Those who knew Lovejoy, 47, say his drug problem accelerated when he divorced his wife.

    A couple of neighbors said Lovejoy, a self-employed bricklayer, was a good man and a hard worker. He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, they said.

    Police believe Walker-Ingram, 31, lived with Lovejoy. Her brother said she began taking drugs after the violent death of her 21-year-old brother, Travis, a decade ago at a Huntington bar.

    A former co-worker said Childress, 46, of Culloden never sought help for his drug habit, which mostly included speed-type substances and alcohol.

    All three left behind children.

    Tony Gurley, 36, of St. Albans is trying to raise money to bury Amanda, his sister. Thursday was Gurley's birthday. He's the oldest of four children, two boys and two girls.

    Their parents left them in the care of their grandmother in Nitro after they divorced. Gurley was 12 years old and took on the role of parent, he said.
    Gurley is on disability because of injuries suffered in a car accident. He was able to get enough from state welfare services to pay for a funeral, but no headstone.

    All he can afford is a plastic clip with a paper marker stuck in it.

    An aunt gave $206 for a down payment on a burial plot at Tyler Mountain Memorial Gardens in Cross Lanes next to their father, Eddie Walker. He died in 2002 from alcoholism at age 52. Their mother, Marsha, died of alcoholism in 2000 at 45. She's also buried at Tyler Mountain.

    So is their brother Travis, who died after he was struck with a heavy object during a fight in 1995.

    City National Bank in St. Albans is collecting donations.

    "She was a good kid," Gurley said of Amanda. "She made good grades. She's big-hearted. She looked out for her little sister."

    That sister went on to get an advertising degree and is doing well, Gurley said.

    Until Amanda turned 18, Gurley said, he was able to keep an eye on her. Once she came of age, she started experimenting with marijuana and alcohol. Gurley couldn't be there to supervise. He was living in Virginia with his wife and children, laying vinyl flooring on Navy ships at Newport News.

    He still tried to keep Amanda in line.

    "I forbid her to do it," he said. "But you tell a kid not to do something."

    When Amanda was about 20, Gurley said, she started experimenting with hard drugs. After Travis died, her experiments turned slowly into a sad life.

    Gurley returned from Virginia when his brother died. His family needed him, he said. But there was one sibling who was beyond his help.

    Eventually, Amanda was homeless. She reportedly lived off and on at Lovejoy's, though Gurley said he didn't know any of those present at the house on the night of the shootings.

    Gurley said they didn't invite Amanda to family gatherings because he didn't want to expose his children to what their aunt had become. He would fix up a plate of hot food and track his sister down.

    They would see her sometimes walking along the highway and pick her up and give her a ride, sometimes to Amandaville. In April, she'd been arrested for hitchhiking.
    If Amanda asked for money for food, Gurley said, he wouldn't give it to her. He'd take her to get something to eat.

    "I wouldn't let her take money and get something else with it," he said.

    For years, Gurley and other family members pleaded with Amanda to get clean. She had three children to look after. Her husband, Jason, died in 2002. Jason's parents care for the children now.

    But Gurley doesn't want the public to know his sister, or the other victims, only as drug addicts.

    "They're not just names. Not just dope heads. I remember the little girl. I remember my baby sister Amanda Lynn, who I walked to school, took up for, helped her with her homework," Gurley said.

    "Maybe at the last part of her life she made some bad choices, but a lot of people do."

    Henry Marino, president of Crown Dodge in Nitro, said Childress, known as "Chilly" to his friends, was one of his slickest car salesmen. Childress had worked there for about two years.

    "He had a lot of following," Marino said. "He had a good rapport with people."

    Childress was such a good salesman that customers who had once bought a car from him at another dealership sought him out at Crown Dodge, Marino said.

    Childress reported to work on Monday afternoon. The Kanawha County Sheriff's Office called Marino early Tuesday looking for Childress' next of kin.

    Childress always reported to work on time, Marino said. He was down to earth, happy-go-lucky. There was no indication of a drug problem. His employment record was impeccable.

    "It was a shock to every one of us," Marino said of the circumstances in which Childress was found dead.

    It wasn't as much of a shock for a former co-worker at a car dealership in Ohio. The salesman asked not to be identified because he is a recovering addict.

    The salesman worked with Childress selling cars for about six years beginning in the mid-1990s.

    "Everybody that knew him was saddened by the news," he said. "But anybody that knew him close wouldn't have been surprised."

    Still, the salesman said Childress was devoted to his children, at least back when he knew the man. They hadn't had much contact in the six years since Childress left that dealership.

    Marino said Childress' daughter was a stand-out ballerina.

    But the Ohio salesman said there was a dark side to Childress. He excelled in his work -- some years earning six-figures from salary and commission -- but he never reached his potential.

    Childress had a drug addiction to attend to, and that takes a lot of time, hard work and scheduling, the salesman said.

    "He was management material," the salesman said. "But that was the one thing that kept him from taking a responsible position. Whenever you're running behind an addiction, you've got to have time away from the dealership."

    Childress was educated. The salesman didn't know if Childress had a college degree but said he had a background in criminology and psychology. Childress was politically vocal and left-leaning.

    But Childress, at least when the salesman knew him, was doing nothing to rein in his addiction.

    Contact writer Justin D. Anderson at 348-4843.

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