Tanya Evans’s son Christopher drove from Fayetteville to Durham last weekend to visit a girl.
It was meant to be a fun visit. He’d never been to Durham before.
Now, he’s dead.
Crying into her phone this week, Evans said: “My skin feels on fire. The top of my nose and tongue feel numb.”
Christopher Hughes, 19, of Fayetteville, died Saturday night from wounds sustained during a shooting that morning at 604 W. Markham Ave.
“He didn’t do anything wrong. That’s what they told me,” Evans said, sobbing. “He was a ‘victim.’ That’s what the detective said, ‘He was a victim.’ Victim.”
Hughes was one of two people shot in the attack. The other was a 19-year-old woman whose name has not been released.
Evans said the young woman, who was hospitalized with what police said were several life-threatening bullet wounds, is recovering. Evans said she is the one Evans traveled to see, but to her knowledge the two teenagers were not boyfriend and girlfriend.
Evans was informed by a Durham Police Department detective that her son’s death was the culmination of an argument that escalated into bloodshed, she said.
“He was hanging out with his friend and that man was there,” Evans said, referring to Nyreese Cole, 29, of Durham, who has been arrested and charged with murder in Hughes’ slaying. “There was a verbal altercation. It turned physical.”
Evans said a detective told her the first part of the fight ended with Cole walking away and out of a home on Markham Avenue in which Hughes and his friends were hanging out, Evans said, “He was probably just trying to protect somebody. He was a protector.”
Hughes was a big guy, standing 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. His cousin, De’monte Armstrong, said, Hughes had once been a promising defensive player on the Terry Sanford High School football team in Fayetteville.
“He wanted to play tight end but he could never catch,” Armstrong said.
Hughes protected his mother, she said, through and from a string of abusive boyfriends.
“He killed my boy. He was beautiful,” Evans said of Cole, through tears. “This person has killed me in so many ways. He killed my protector.”
A grieving mother receives a visitor
Evans said the brother of the young woman who was shot visited Evans on Wednesday in Fayetteville and told her the bullets that killed her son were in fact meant for him.
Asked to comment, Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said she could not. “This is still an ongoing investigation,” Michael said.
Evans said Cole, who is being held at the Durham County jail without bail, was the boyfriend of the young wounded woman’s sister.
The young woman’s brother told Evans that Cole left the Markham Avenue home after an argument, only to return with a gun intent on shooting him. Hughes tried to take the gun away from Cole and was shot in the pursuing tussle, Evans said the brother told her.
Cole accidentally shot himself in the scuffle, Evans said.
“I’m glad this man had the decency to shoot himself,” Evans said. “The detective told me he shot himself and went to the hospital. ... He accidentally shot himself. Well, good; so, he had to go to the hospital – to get caught. Praise the Lord.”
A life of hardships
Evans readily admits she’s lived a life prone to problems.
She left her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to start a new life in Fayetteville and escape trouble. She said she was wounded by a stray bullet while lying in her bed on the night of Jan. 23, 2003.
The bullet shattered Evans’ patella or kneecap, splintered her femur and lodged in her buttock.
Her late son grew up in Fayetteville and was a gifted singer, she said. He performed in musicals at Fayetteville’s Cape Fear Regional Theatre, played the bad guy in a school production of “Footloose” and at 16, received the opportunity of a lifetime to audition for Disney.
But that chance was squandered when on July 15, 2014 Hughes was arrested on charges of murder, robbery with dangerous weapons and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and jailed on $400,000 bond in Cumberland County.
State records show Hughes was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon (conspiracy) and served nearly three years in prison. It is unclear if or how the other charges were resolved.
“A gentle giant, yeah,” said Hughes’s best friend, Calvin Wilson. “After he got out, he was really trying to do good.”
Shortly before his murder, Mr. Hughes had been accepted by a community college in Texas.
“That was my best friend, my backbone, my brother,” Wilson said. “I stayed at his house. He stayed at my house. Everything, football, movies, even chilling with females. You know how that goes.”
Wilson has an infant daughter, he said, and Hughes had been excited about it. “He was so excited. He always said what he’d do when she got here, how he’d treat her. Look out, do everything for her … I don’t even know why he went up there [to Durham] with people he don’t know.”
Evans said cannot afford the funeral home fees to transport her son’s body to be buried back in Fayetteville. “They killed my baby! And I can’t even see him,” she said.
Armstrong made a GoFundMe page hoping to garner enough money for a Fayetteville funeral. The site is gofundme.com/chrishughes75.
“He was loving,” said Hughes’ best friend. “That’s all he knew was love. That’s all he wanted to be.”