Aviela Weltman and Cassandra Feyerabend reported for WUFT-TV.
In the wake of a gunshot wound that left the victim lucky to be alive, his family reflects on the near-miss of a tragedy that is all too familiar to them.
It was nearly six years ago that Tyvon “CoCo” Whitford was shot and killed in Putnam County, losing her life and the life of her unborn daughter.
The case has gone unsolved, and her family is coping with her death, her unborn daughter’s death and raising her now 11-year-old son, who was in the house at the time of the shooting.
Now, the Whitford family is dealing with more gun violence, this time against their son Ronald, who was shot in the head Tuesday night. Ronald Whitford called 911 himself, and Gainesville Police officer Ben Tobias said he was lucky to be alive. Only suffering a graze to the head, he got staples and was sent home later Tuesday night. Police received the 911 call at about 9:45 p.m.
The incident occurred when Ronald Whitford went to a residence at 441 SE 15th St. to confront someone, said Tobias. During the disagreement, the suspect, Dominic Gillins, armed himself with a handgun and shot Ronald Whitford in the head.
Tobias said police found Gillins at about 2 a.m.
At this point, Tobias said police did not know what the motive was and were treating it as a disturbance.
Dale Whitford, mother to both Ronald and CoCo, said she is tired of gun violence harming her family.
“I’ve already lost one child to gun fight,” she said. “Darn it if I’m going to stand back and now lose another child…I refuse to stand up and let these cowards take my children from me.”
Dale said her daughter was a hardworking woman who was kind to everyone. The 25-year-old worked as a guard in the Department of Corrections at the time of her death.
She wants people to know how much CoCo cared about people.
“She had a smile on her face, she was the greatest mother in the world…She was the sweetest daughter, the best friend,” she said. “She would always make everybody laugh. She would never hurt anybody.”
Dale Whitford said she believes the person who killed her daughter was the father of her unborn granddaughter, who was a person of interest at the time of investigation.
She said she also feels that the Putnam County police failed in the investigation, and that they could have found whoever killed her daughter.
“I know they didn’t pull the trigger, but they sure did screw up that investigation,” she said. “They could’ve got him.”
Nearly six years later, she still has no closure.
“We’re now walking around day by day,” she said. “ Trying to take one day at a time, trying to raise her son, who is traumatized from watching his mother die on the floor – crying at night, having nightmares – and nobody seems to care.”
Dale Whitford said so far, no one from the community has told the police anything regarding her daughter’s death.
“Somebody seen something, somebody heard something. They just don’t talk,” she said. “This is a close-knit community. It’s like we’re the outsiders because everyone is related except us. It’s nerve-wracking.”
Dale Whitford said raising her grandson helps her cope with her daughter’s death. Without him, she didn’t think she would be able to keep going on. Still, she said it is hard to cope with the loss.
“She didn’t deserve to get murdered that way, I mean a dog doesn’t deserve that treatment,” Dale Whitford said. “He actually took away my best friend, my only daughter. I have nobody to share stories with, nobody to walk with or go to the movies with anymore. He took all of that away from me in one selfish night.”
Dale Whitford asks for anyone who knows something about CoCo’s death to speak up to help her and her family get justice.
“How much does a family have to take?” she said. “Can’t someone do something about it?”