Mother lost two sons in a month, in separate shootings

Vincennes University student Donnovan Williams, 19, was killed in Hammond on New Year's Day.

HAMMOND | A mother grieved as her second son was gunned down in less than a month, this time an engineering student at Vincennes University who was home on winter break.

Hammond authorities are investigating the shooting death of 19-year-old Donnovan Williams, a Highland resident who had been the first in his family to go to college but ended up the first victim of homicide in Northwest Indiana this year.

Early on New Year's Day, Williams was shot at 1235 Wilson Place in Hammond, and later died at Community Hospital in Munster.

The recent graduate of Morton High School in Hammond had been at a house party where two other college students, one a fellow Vincennes University student, were wounded by gunfire, aunt Andrea Wright said. One is still in the hospital, and the other has been released, she said.

"He's a young kid, a good kid who's never been in trouble," Wright said. "He was trying to get his life started. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, at a party he shouldn't have gone to."

Hammond police did not release any additional information about the homicide. Lt. Richard Hoyda said detectives may be hesitant to provide the public with more details because of safety concerns.

Williams just mourned the loss of his older brother, Hammond resident Dominique D. Wright, 25, who was fatally shot multiple times on Interstate 80/94 near Cline Avenue on Dec. 4. 

Police said Wright was exchanging gunfire on the highway with East Chicago resident Terrill K. Fenderson, 37, who was found dead from gunshot wounds the next morning in a Hammond alley. According to court records, Wright had been involved in another 2012 shooting on I-80/94 that stemmed from a feud between residents in East Chicago's Harbor and Calumet neighborhoods.

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Wright was a machinist at a Hammond factory who had just welcomed a child into the world eight months earlier and was attending Ivy Tech classes online to try to better himself, Andrea Wright said. She said she believed Williams' death was unrelated. 

"He was home from college and just got caught up in a horrible incident," she said. "His mother has lost two sons. They just buried Dominique, and he was home on break trying to console her."

Mother Melissa Williams, a Highland resident, is distraught after losing both her sons, one right after the other, Wright said. She also has a daughter.

Williams had been a bright kid and good student who was quick to smile and had a lot of friends, Wright said. He enjoyed playing basketball with his brother and worked at hhgregg in Merrillville during his high school years. His family was extremely proud he went off to college and hoped he could escape the area, she said.

"He was a loving, supportive young man with a bright future ahead of him," she said. "He was warm, funny, and affectionate. He loved to give hugs. College had always been a goal for him. He was just trying to get his life started."

The family just had to bury Wright and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help with Williams' funeral expenses.

To donate, visit gofundme.com/dwilliams.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.