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Slain woman wasn't targeted by shooter

Family, friends mourn loss


T'Shana Francis was looking to the future, planning to become a teacher after graduating from Salem State College next year, relatives and friends said yesterday.

They also said that the 20-year-old Dorchester resident should not be dead, should not have become the victim of gunfire as she did Sunday night while standing outside the home of her relatives on Gladeside Avenue in Mattapan.

"I've never ever seen her mad," said Chalmers Hazelwood, 22, who knew Francis when they were both growing up in the neighborhood where she died. Three men were wounded.

"It was just a misfortunate event that she came to her aunt's house and got shot."

Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said homicide detectives have concluded that the bullets were not intended for the victim.

"We don't believe that she was the intended target," Driscoll said. "They believe it was a case of her being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Driscoll said one motive homicide detectives are pursuing is that the shooting was an outgrowth of feuding between gangs in the area.

David Meier, chief homicide prosecutor for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said Francis was at a house party on West Seldon street July 11, 2004, when Cedric Phillips was shot to death. A suspect identified as Omar Denton was later arrested, he said. However, Meier said Francis did not give a tape-recorded statement to homicide detectives, was not called to testify before the grand jury that indicted Denton, and was not called as a prosecution witness during Denton's trial this year, which ended with a hung jury.

Prosecutors had no plans to call Francis at Denton's new trial, set for October, he said.

"There is no evidence whatsoever that Sunday night's shooting on Gladeside was in any way, shape, or form related to the shooting of Cedric Phillips," Meier said.

Referring to Sunday's shooting, Meier said, "The evidence shows that Miss Francis had only arrived at that location moments before the shooting. She was truly an innocent victim who was caught up in a spate of recent violence between two rival groups in that general neighborhood."

Francis was set to start her senior year at Salem State, where she was majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, said school spokeswoman Karen Cady.

Francis was active in the Student Government Association and the Multicultural Student Association, according to the school and a classmate.

"She is a really cool, collected, down-to-earth individual," said Jeffrey Duisson, 24, who was involved in the Multicultural Student Association along with Francis over the past two years. "Working with her has been a beautiful thing. She motivated all of us to be the best we can."

Francis's close relatives, including her mother, said they were devastated by her death and declined to comment.

Relatives, Gladeside Avenue residents, and police said Francis was standing on the sidewalk in front of her relatives' house when bullets started flying just before 10 p.m.

"She was excellent," said Myson Pett-Maitre, a former neighbor who stopped by to console Francis's relatives after learning of her death. "She was very quiet. She didn't have problems with nobody."

Police would not release the identities of any of the shooting victims, but the brother of one victim identified him as 41-year-old Kevin Richardson. The mother of a third victim identified him as 17-year-old Ramon Sajous. Residents said the fourth victim was in his late teens and lived a few houses away on Gladeside Avenue.

Sharon Mattis, the mother of Sajous, said that her son often hung out on the street and that she did not know why the shooting took place or who was the intended target.

Mattis added that her son is not involved in gangs, had recently completed the Job Corps training program in Chicopee, and is planning to start work as a welder later this year, after he turns 18.

"Trust me," Mattis said of her son. "Innocent."

Keith Richardson, the older brother of Kevin Richardson, said the victims were chatting with each other shortly before 10 p.m. He said he did not believe his brother was the target. He said that violence in Boston can come at any time, any place.

"War is everywhere," said Keith Richardson, 42. "It's wrong place, wrong time, bad people. And then when you add guns to the equation, you have a tragedy."

Keith Richardson and other residents recovered more spent shell casings and bullets yesterday, leading police to return and conduct a second search for ballistic evidence.

Francis, the oldest of three daughters, had dropped off a relative at the home where she lived for a while in the past several years, neighbors and relatives said.

Duisson said Francis had told him she wanted to put her science-based college education to work in the classroom after graduation.

"She really wanted that," he said. "All she really talked about was helping people. She wanted to teach biology."

Francis's death stunned Gladeside Avenue residents, who said violence was rare in their neighborhood of one- and two-family houses a short distance from Mattapan Square.

"It's very peaceful," said Tony Phillips, who has lived on Gladeside Avenue for 12 years and has raised six children there. "There's no gunshots around here."

Globe staff reporter Maria Cramer contributed to this report.