NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – There is only one known picture of then-fifth grader Felecia Shearin with her mother back in the 1980s.
The absence of photographs speaks to her mother’s difficulties as a single parent with nine children. About 10 years later, another picture was taken of Shearin when she was 21.
That photo, a mug shot, was taken by Norfolk Police officers who arrested Shearin and four other women for the stabbing death of 20-year-old LaJoy Monique Howard.
The suspects were from Park Place; the victim was killed in Huntersville.
Now 46, Shearin returned to her home community of Park Place to reflect on the incident that left her with the title: convicted killer.
“We called ourselves being bad and we went out there and we all got to fighting and one thing led to another,” Shearin said outside a strip shopping center in Park Place that was a location where she and her friends would socialize. “A young lady lost her life, sadly, and so now, with my life, I’m trying to give back.”
By the 1990s and even today, the strip mall is the location where numerous shootings and murders have taken place. The city of Norfolk recently bought the property, which still has a few tenants. Residents who live nearby are anxiously awaiting to learn about redevelopment plans.
Shearin is now giving back to her home community of Park Place and other parts of the region.
In a 10 On Your Side interview, just outside what she calls Quick Shop (the sign says Bay Foods and the business appears to be closed), Shearin reflected on how the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1990s changed Park Place.
“It was just family, (but) everything just started to change,” Shearin said. “Every time you turned around it was killing.”
Park Place is on the mend.
So is the woman who learned some hard lessons after 14 years behind bars.
Recent photos frame the life of the mother who earned a GED while behind bars and a cosmetology license.
Shearin has shared her story at churches and public appearances across the region.
Last year, her first book: Fee from Park Place: Da Naked Truth, Volume 1, was made available for purchase on Amazon.
Standing along the sidewalk next to the corner where she and her friends used to hang out, Shearin read a portion of the painful chapter in her book that describes the day a Norfolk jury convicted her of murder. Deputies handcuffed her and placed her in a cell.
“As I laid my head on a roll of toilet tissue made as a pillow now I cried. And I called on God, go before me, Lord,” Shearin read.
Now she’s crying out to local kids who cling to guns and gangs, and she is working on what she calls Volume II of her life’s story, which could be published later this year.
“So if I can give back to the community and help and encourage somebody to not go through what I went through,” Shearin said, “that’s what I’m here to do.”