Two young women went out for a night of fun on Beale Street almost a decade ago and never made it home. They were found shot to death near Elvis Presley Boulevard. Their killers were never caught.
The victims were better than friends, they were cousins. Sherlena Burgess and Lashonia Austin grew up together in Batesville, Mississippi, hung out together and met their killers on the same night. Both young women attended college, had careers and lived their lives free of drama after moving to Memphis.
"They liked to go Beale Street. They like to dance but there is nothing to indicate they were associated with the shady side of society," says Sgt. Bill Ashton.
While they didn't seek trouble, it found them in September of 2003 after night of clubbing. They couldn't drive home from a garage on Front Street because their car had transmission trouble. Someone, perhaps their killer, gave them a lift to a restaurant in East Memphis.
"At four o'clock ... Sherlena is calling her boyfriend to say, ‘I got car trouble. I will be home shortly. We are eating breakfast.' ‘We,' that would indicate they are together," says Ashton.
It would be the last time anyone would hear from them again.
Ashton continues, "A lady was walking down the street to catch a bus at Pearce and Elvis Presley and she discovered Sherlena Burgess laying face down. About five days later, her cousin, Lashonia Austin, her body was found at 7058 Cherokee in a vacant house."
Investigators don't know which one died first but believe there had to be at least two killers involved.
"Lashonia, the young lady that was found in the house, yes there was sign of a struggle. I can't go into evidence, but there were signs that a fight had occurred."
The abandoned smoke house on Cherokee is gone but police believe the suspects knew it well enough to commit murder inside.
"I believe there are some folks in that neighborhood who could break this case wide open for us," says Ashton. "That hour of the morning, it's quiet. A gun shot is really going to be loud…if she dialed her boyfriend, she could have easily dialed 9-1-1 just as easily, it is few numbers."
If you have any information that could help police you are urged to call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.
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