By Sarah Lehr
Abdallah Khoury thinks about his late sister, Gloria, at the start of each day.
When Abdallah worked at the Golden Corral in Boardman, the siblings shared a morning ritual of coffee and conversation.
That daily routine is one of the things Abdallah misses the most more than a year after his sister’s death.
Police found Gloria, 39, in a Liberty Township apartment April 7, 2016, along with Jesse Cooper, 62. They had been shot.
Officers are investigating the deaths as homicides, but they have not made any arrests.
The first anniversary of his sister’s death was a blow to Abdallah.
He posted a Facebook tribute to his sister the day after her death. This month, the status resurfaced on his social media feed as part Facebook’s “on this day” feature.
“Everything came back to me,” Abdallah said of seeing the post. “I still remember everything about that day like it is today.”
Abdallah recalls watching the early morning news April 8 and seeing the exterior of Cooper’s Frederick Drive apartment building.
“I saw the street and my heart jumped,” Abdallah said. “I raced to Liberty, and I couldn’t get through because the detectives were all over the place. That’s when I knew something was wrong.”
Police had responded to reports of shots fired at the Frederick Drive apartment just before midnight April 7. Inside the residence, they found Gloria and Cooper dead from gunshot wounds.
Family members say Gloria’s life was troubled even before its tragic end.
Gloria was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 1976. She eventually immigrated to the United States, where she stayed with an aunt. Gloria’s two brothers, Abdallah and Romano, now live in Gaithersburg, Md. She also leaves a sister, who still lives in Africa.
“She had been traumatized by the civil war,” Abdallah said of his sister’s childhood in the West African country. “When she was 13, she was raped by the rebels and she actually had a kid by them. So she never had a normal teenage life. All of those things – it never left her.”
Gloria’s brothers believe she felt isolated after moving to the United States.
“I think she was disappointed,” Abdallah said. “Back home, people have the mentality that when you come to the U.S., everything will be perfect.”
Gloria suffered from bipolar disorder and depression, Abdallah said. She began using hard drugs, much to the dismay of her family.
Police reported finding drug paraphernalia inside the apartment where they found Gloria’s body. At the time of her death, there was a warrant out for her arrest on a misdemeanor trespassing charge.
Romano said he talked on the phone with Gloria every day. He worried about her because of the people with whom she associated.
“Things changed; she wasn’t like the person I know,” Romano said. “We tried to stop her, but when she is almost 40, there is not much we can do. She was a very good lady. She made me laugh every day. She just couldn’t recover.”
Abdallah said he stills feel guilty about not being able to save his sister. He prefers to think about what she was like as a child. He remembers how she used to pick flowers and put them in her hair.
“She wanted to be a model because she was the most beautiful person,” he said.
More than a year after her death, the brothers say they are still hopeful their sister’s killer will be brought to justice.
“We are praying they will find the person who did it,” Romano said. “Some people have their lives end when they are still young. For me, I just leave everything to God – that’s my belief as a Christian.”
Liberty police Capt. Toby Meloro said police have identified several “persons of interest” in relation to the deaths of Gloria and Cooper but do not have enough evidence to file charges. He declined to give further details of the case, citing the ongoing investigation.
“I am confident we will eventually get to the bottom of what happened,” Meloro said. “With a homicide investigation, it never really goes away until the case is closed.”