CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Since last December, there have been several homicides in and around Charleston including a 10-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy who were killed and another 14-year-old boy who was charged with murder.
Lisa Zappia, president and CEO of the Prestera Center in Charleston, said tragic cases like that can have a negative impact on the community and could possibly create fear in young children attending school.
“When you’re talking about murders, that’s extreme stress. When you’re hearing about violence in your community, when you have witnessed it or when there’s that looming worry about that kind of activity, it is scary,” she told MetroNews.
The Prestera Center works with children and families regarding behavioral health care. She said they’re often invited to schools in times of crisis.
“It’s important to share with children or adolescents that there’s people around to talk to,” she said. “It’s okay to share if they’re upset or afraid and if they have questions, to ask.”
The most recent murder happened last week when Kanawha County deputies found the bodies of a 14-year-old boy and his mother Alisha Brooke Carnefix, 39, inside a St. Albans home. Deputies arrested Markus Guy, 31, last Wednesday after Guy admitted to shooting his girlfriend’s mother and brother.
Guy and his girlfriend, Shelby Frazier, reported the incident to Charleston Police. Guy was charged with first degree murder. Frazier has not been charged and a motive is still unclear.
Last month, a 19-year-old store clerk was shot and killed after a robbery at the Tobacco & Pipe shop on Charleston’s 7th Avenue. Charleston Police arrested and charged a 14-year-old boy in connection with the death of Caden Martin, of Dunbar.
Charleston Chief of Detectives Lt. Tony Hazelett previously told MetroNews that Martin handed over everything and never made an aggressive move toward the suspect, but as the juvenile left the store, he opened fire on Martin.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Hazelett said at the time.
In Dec. 2023, a man was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder after allegedly stabbing to death his mother and a 10-year-old boy. Nicholas Hanshaw, 38, of Charleston, is accused of going to the Dutch Miller auto dealership in South Charleston shortly after the stabbings and told a worker there that he needed a car because he had killed someone.
Police later found the bodies inside a home at Vandalia Terrace Apartments on Dorchester Road. A criminal complaint said Sherry Russell, 62, suffered multiple wounds to her neck and the boy had also been fatally stabbed.
Zappia said family members of these victims are now having to explain their situations to others including children who may not grasp the weight of the violence. She said it’s important to have an open conversation.
“You never know in a community what the effect is from this because it’s a rippling effect. My recommendation is that if you have any concern about your child or adolescent is that you make a call,” she said.
Everyone experiences loss in a different way, Zappia said.
“We both may have experienced the death of a parent or a grandparent but your response to your grandparent’s death will be different than mine because our relationship is very individualized,” she said.
Zappia said elementary school children also react differently to death than high schoolers do. She said younger children are more likely to become anxious, fearful, have trouble sleeping or concentrating. High school students experience depression, feelings of isolation, develop eating disorders or begin to abuse alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with trauma.
To reach help at the Prestera Center, call the main line at 304-525-7851 or to reach their Crisis Line, call 1-800-642-3434.