Despite the fact that shootings and terrorist attacks are on the news all the time, random acts of violence are just as shocking. In a matter of seconds, families can be torn apart, and survivors of a tragedy are left behind to figure out what happened. This family’s story will remind us all to appreciate every day, because the future is not set in stone.
In Memphis, cops noticed a man running from the scene where an apartment was going up in flames. They immediately realized something bad had occurred, but they didn’t know what they would discover. It turns out, a horrible tragedy had just happened to a family that had been celebrating life a few days earlier.
In 2014, Brandon and Regina Allen got hitched. Regina had no biological kids, but Brandon’s two sons saw her as a mom just the same. The couple lived in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Parkway Village apartments. It wasn’t unusual to see family and friends paying them a visit. In fact, they had recently had a huge party.
For the Allen family, February was special because on the 19th, Regina turned 32. So her hubby took her to Dave and Buster’s to play arcade games. Then he took her to Texas de Brazil for a steak dinner. On Facebook, Brandon wrote: “I wanna give a special B-Day S/O to My Queen… My Lover… My Headache.” But the celebration was far from over.
The couple invited their friends and family over to the apartment the next day to celebrate Regina’s birthday. On her Facebook page, Regina wrote: “I would like to thank god for allowing me to see another birthday.” She added, “Thank you, everyone, for sending me heartwarming birthday wishes the wonderful gifts and happy memories you shared with me on my special day.” The next day was also huge for Regina.
Regina posted a message for her dad, Shon Holden on February 21. It was a special post for his birthday. She considered herself lucky because her parents were only 16 when they had her and they still looked young and were full of love. But the Holden and Allen families were about to face a terrible tragedy.
The following day, cops responded to a complaint in Parkway Village on February 22. People were yelling about a nearby robbery and eyewitnesses told police officers that they heard shots coming from the apartment. Then the officers noticed that someone was trying to run away from the scene.
Cops chased after the suspect and eventually caught him. But when they turned, they felt terrible uneasiness by what they saw. The apartment complex was overwhelmingly taken by fire. The cops immediately contacted the fire department. Then they tried to make sense of what had just happened by talking to the suspect.
Aareon Berryman, the 18-year-old suspect, told cops that there were two people in the apartment unit where the fire began, and claimed he “left” them there. Officers found two guns on him, some marijuana, ecstasy, a loaded magazine, and most importantly, lighter fluid. It became obvious that something shocking had happened, but their investigation would have to wait until they put out the fire.
Half of the apartment units in the complex were either partially, or totally burned down. But after the fire was out, firefighters started checking out the scene. They eventually made their way to Regina and Brandon’s apartment, where it seemed like the fire had began. But what they found wasn’t just damage caused by the fire.
Brandon was lying on the kitchen floor and Regina was on a bedroom in the back. They were both declared dead, but the fire hadn’t been the reason they had died inside the apartment. They had been shot to death. Cops were faced with a terrible tragedy as they tried to figure out what had happened.
After Berryman was arrested, he admitted later on that he broke into the couple’s apartment to steal their stuff. Then he shot them and set the place on fire. He was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, first-degree murder in preparation of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated arson, and possession of drugs. But these charges didn’t help ease the pain that Regina and Brandon’s family felt.
DJ Hewlett, who was Brandon’s dad, said, “He had two boys. He was taking care and doing good for himself, but he wasn’t perfect.” Despite his grief, he asked that his son’s friends not seek revenge. “To all of his friends, stay strong and don’t do anything stupid. I know you want revenge, but just let the authorities do their job,” he warned. Now all he could do was pick up the broken shards of his life.
Hewlett walked into Brandon and Regina’s burnt apartment to pick up what remained of their belongings just days after the murders. “You see smoke stains where I had to go get pictures of my loved one. I’m still numb,” he added. But Regina’s family also had to take time to mourn the loss of their loved one.
The funerals of Regina and Brandon happened weeks after their deaths. Regina’s mom, Lisa, wrote on Facebook: “Today will be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and that’s lay my daughter to rest. I’m going to miss you like crazy but I know you’re resting safe in the arms of the Lord.” Grieving would be tough, but she intended to see that the killer got what he deserved.
Berryman is in jail awaiting trial. Meanwhile Brandon’s father was asked what he felt towards Berryman, and he gave an answer that was really surprising. “Instead of me being angry, I’d like to talk to the young man. I heard he was just 18,” he said. Maybe he feels that the only way to move past this horrible tragedy is to show the killer mercy and compassion.