Arrests in 2013 homicide case bring ‘a little bit of relief’

Hackney’s family facing ‘roller coaster’ of emotions

Courtesy photo / Steven Hackney poses with his daughters Amani Rose Hackney (left) and Quina Hackney on May 10, 2013.

For the family of Steven Hackney, the arrest of three people charged with his death brings “a roller coaster” of emotions.

“It’s been an open wound,” said Rosie Ruiz of Erie who was in a 10-year relationship with Hackney in which they became parents to two daughters before the two parted ways in 2011.

Hackney was killed about an hour before he was supposed to board a bus bound for Erie so he could attend his daughter Amani Rose Hackney’s fourth birthday party. She will be 8 on Tuesday.

Ruiz said their now 15-year-old daughter, Quina Hackney, posted on social media about her father in the early-morning hours of the anniversary of her father’s murder. Hackney’s daughter noted Thursday marked four years without him.

“I don’t know how I’m doing it, but I’m doing it,” his daughter wrote, Ruiz recalled, saying she didn’t know of the post until she woke up for work the next morning.

Ruiz said she told her daughter she loved her and that after work they would release balloons — a yearly ritual since Hackney’s death.

Then by late morning, Ruiz was flooded by messages from friends and family telling her the news that 27-year-old Taylor Griffith, 31-year-old Kashif Omar Ellis and 23-year-old Qasim L. Sharif Green had been charged in Hackney’s homicide.

Her oldest daughter called her and told her to come home.

“We cried, we laughed, we shared memories,” Ruiz said. “It was a roller coaster.”

“Tears of joy, somewhat,” Ruiz said, describing how she felt when she learned the news. “A little bit of relief that I can place a face and names to the folks who took my kids’ father’s life away.”

Ruiz said it was also tempered with the knowledge that Thursday’s arrests are not the end of anything but merely the beginning of a lengthy process.

Hackney’s only sister, Monique Hackney-Randall, said she honestly didn’t think the police were pursuing her big brother’s killers. Still, the family prayed they would catch those responsible.

“But, I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” said Hackney-Randall. She worried police would not pursue the case of a black man from out of town who was part of the drug world.

Growing up five years apart, raised by their father and his family in northeast Washington, D.C., the two were close, she said. When she heard the news on Thursday, through social media, she was shocked and excited.

“Then I was like wow, I can’t believe this really happened,” Hackney-Randall said, adding it was like she was reliving the emotions of four years ago when she learned her brother had been killed.

Their father, Gregory Hackney, is doing well with the news, she said.

“He keeps it positive,” Hackney-Randall said. “He’s excited, but still guarded and wants to see it followed through.”

And by that, Hackney-Randall means “full conviction for all of them,” she said.

Both women said they regret having to learn of the arrests through social media and that they were not contacted by police or prosecutors in Blair County with the news. But they still were thankful for the work of the Altoona police in building the case against the three people who were arrested.

As for what punishment Griffith, Ellis and Green should receive, Hackney-Randall said it is against her spirituality to want the death penalty.

“I’m not one who can say that this person deserves to live or this person deserves to die,” she said. Ruiz said she agreed wholeheartedly with Hackney-Randall on the subject.

“Life in prison,” Hackney-Randall said.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.