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  • Tina Porter, left, calls Danielle Carter her “adopted daughter” after she survived a shooting that took the life of Porter's daughter Nicole Saylor and Kayla Harris. (Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette)

  • Porter and Carter got tattoos to commemorate the loss of Saylor and Harris, who were shot and killed in the early-morning hours of Nov. 9, 2017.

Friday, November 09, 2018 1:00 am

Double killing haunts lone survivor, family

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Faith Saylor, the only child of Nicole Saylor, killed a year ago today, keeps her mother's ashes close by every night.

“I know she's watching me all the time,” Faith said in a recent interview. “I sleep with her urn. I want her to be proud of me.”

The day Nicole Saylor died, Nov. 9, 2017, Fort Wayne woke up to news that three women had been shot, two fatally, in the early morning hours in the 200 block of East Sherwood Terrace.

The three were returning from their shift at The Harem strip club to Kayla Harris' home about 4 a.m. when someone emerged from the dark, first shooting Saylor, 36, then turning his attention to Harris, 24, and Danielle Carter, 29.

Saylor and Harris died. Carter, Harris' cousin, survived despite being shot 10 times.

Neighbors reported seeing the killer methodically shoot the women at close range, one by one, then drag Harris' body closer to Carter's and then rifling through Carter's pockets.

No one has been arrested. Family members, struggling to come to terms with the brutal slayings, believe they know who was behind the attack.

To cope with her loss, Faith Saylor, now 18, said she had to leave Fort Wayne.

“The reminder of my mom is everywhere,” the 2017 Homestead High School graduate said. “Her roller skates were in the garage and I slept in her old bedroom.”

She'd get emotional when she passed by the doughnut shop in the Georgetown shopping area, the same shop her mother used to take her.

“I was like a mess every day,” Faith said.

It took her weeks to get her mother's belongings out of her home and, when she finally did, things were missing, she said, something she blames on a deceitful friend and a landlord looking for money.

She is thankful she was able to retrieve a Build-A-Bear teddy bear her mother bought her when she was 3 and baby pictures. Jewelry, including her mother's class ring, was gone.

“I will never know what I didn't receive,” Faith said.

Faith moved to Kentucky where her father lives, but lives in much more fear than she did before her mother's death.

“I literally run from my apartment with mace in my hand, a knife in my pocket and a Taser,” said Faith, who is saving up to return to culinary school. “Now when I see a mass shooting, it really hits home. I can relate.

“I've tried to picture the mindset I would have to be in to be able to shoot someone in the back of the head, murder another person and to shoot Danielle 10 times. That's insane,” Faith said.

The day of the killings, Faith got a Facebook phone call from one of her mother's old friends about 9 a.m. telling her to get to the hospital right away.

When she got there and asked for her mother's room number, there wasn't one. 

“They'd only taken her to the hospital because they thought they could resuscitate her. She died in the yard,” Faith said.

It's taken Faith's grandmother, Tina Porter, a year to seek counseling, Porter said, and she's developed a bond with Carter. Nicole Saylor was Carter's best friend and roommate and helped take care of Carter's five children.

Porter now calls Carter her “adopted daughter.” They both have commemorative tattoos and Porter paid for Carter's final tattoo bill.

Carter's tattoo is an old-fashioned timepiece with the hands at 11 and nine, the date of Saylor's death. There's a rose for Harris.

Porter's tattoo has flying birds.

“It just came to me that, you know, on my left hand, she's like flying away from my heart,” Porter said. “I feel like there's a hole there.”

Porter and her daughter were fans of Linkin Park, an alternative rock group.

“She was my concert buddy,” Porter said. “She loved art. She painted and she liked poetry.”

One of her passions was playing softball, which she had to give up because she played catcher and her knees started to bother her, Porter said.

Faith Saylor described her mother as an unconventional woman who worked an unconventional job.

Like Faith Saylor, Carter is looking to move away. She plans to move to the Tampa, Florida, area where her grandmother lives.

The killings haunt her and she is terrified the killer will come back for her.

“My nightmares and my flashbacks are horrible,” Carter said. “I don't sleep hardly at all. If I let my mind wander, I watch Kayla die over and over and over again. I hear 'Cole scream. (Saylor) saw him and she turned around and the bullet went through her hand and through her head.”

Police said Carter is still alive because the killer's gun jammed. Carter was shot twice in the right ankle, once in the left knee, twice in the left arm and four shots to the chest that miraculously didn't touch any of her organs. Another shot in the back shattered her hip and pelvis and nicked a tiny portion of her colon.

Harris was shot in the lungs.

While Carter's injuries missed the internal organs, she still needed a wheelchair to get around until Stacey Davis of the local group, #JAVA, stepped in several months ago to help her with health insurance, getting to physical therapy and mental health issues.

A year after she was shot, Carter still has a colostomy bag and needs nerve surgery on her left arm.

“It just gives me pins and needles, pain all the time,” Carter said.

While doctors dither over needed procedures, Carter says she has medical debt of more than $400,000 and will probably have to file for bankruptcy.

“(The bills) just go to my dad's house. He just piles them up and gives them to me when I go over there,” Carter said.

She worries about Christmas and providing presents for her five children ranging in age from 4 to 12.

Carter is close to Faith Saylor.

“We talk every couple of weeks,” Carter said. “We usually end up crying about her mom.”