WILKES-BARRE ‚?? The half-block between the home where Tyler Winstead grew up and Mt. Zion Baptist Church was a path that Tyler often traveled.
Raised by his grandparents only three houses away from the Hill Street church, Tyler attended services every Sunday and was an enthusiastic participant in church youth programs for years, a family friend said.
On Tuesday, hundreds of mourners tracked the same path Tyler had a hundred times before, from the Hill Street house to the church where Tyler lay in an open casket at the center of a crowded room, packed with others hoping to wish him goodbye.
Along the short path they passed the patch of sidewalk, now marked with dozens of prayer candles, balloons, flowers and crosses, where five days earlier Tyler was found wounded in the chest by the gunshot that would take his life.
Willie and Carol Golden, Tyler‚??s grandparents who raised him from the age of 3, gripped hands tightly as they passed the memorial, following Tyler‚??s siblings to the church around 5 p.m. They did not stop at the spot.
Some of Tyler‚??s classmates at GAR High School did pause, lingering by the memorial as they exchanged hugs and brushed away tears.
The investigation into Tyler‚??s death is still ongoing; just hours before the viewing Tuesday city and state police executed a search warrant at a neighbor‚??s home, next to the makeshift memorial. No one was home.
No arrests have been made, and the question of why someone would gun down a by-many-reports cheerful 14-year-old remains a mystery.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said she couldn‚??t comment on the ongoing investigation into Tyler‚??s death Tuesday, but said her office is ‚??doing everything possible‚?Ľ to do justice for Tyler.‚?Ě
‚??I want to make sure we follow all the proper procedures and make sure everything is done by the book,‚?Ě Salavantis said outside Mt. Zion Church Tuesday. ‚??He was a wonderful little kid and a smart kid; everyone enjoyed when he was around, and that‚??s why there isn‚??t a dry eye in there; that‚??s why it‚??s a sad day.‚?Ě
Salavantis said her investigation has led her to think of Tyler as ‚??a great kid,‚?Ě with a smile that could light up a room.
Visitors calling at his viewing Tuesday were greeted by a video slideshow of pictures of Tyler ‚?? Tyler opening presents under the tree; with his brother in their Sunday best; huddling around a chair with his siblings and relatives. In each photo there was one constant; the grin on Tyler‚??s face beamed from ear to ear.
‚??He was a kid that had so much potential just because of his personality,‚?Ě said LaMont Diggs, a family friend and choir member at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. ‚??He just shined. You say to yourself as a parent, I hope my kid has that.‚?Ě
Diggs, of Wilkes-Barre, said he knew Tyler for six years as a member of the church. He said Tyler grew up in a loving home with grandparents who ‚??did everything right‚?Ě as caregivers.
That made his death all the more senseless, Diggs said.
‚??It broke my heart out,‚?Ě Diggs said. ‚??I know tomorrow when they close that lid I‚??m gonna be done. They‚??re gonna be carrying me out of here.‚?Ě
The viewing for Tyler Winstead will continue today from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 105 Hill St., and will be immediately followed by Going Home Services.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Tyler T. Winstead Memorial Fund, c/o Bank of America, 406 S. Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701.