Slain family is mourned; suspect held
By Karen Maeshiro,
Sonya Durfield and 3 of her daughers died in their home
LANCASTER - Sonya Evette Durfield was a fighter. A surgical technician at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, the 43-year-old single mother worked hard to provide for her six kids.
She taught her children to be strong, and was raising daughters with promising futures. One wanted to be a model and just adored Tyra Banks. Another was hoping to become a nurse. The youngest dreamed of becoming a singer or an architect.
The bodies of Durfield and three of her daughters - Ebony Horton, 14, Melinda Harris, 12 and Kayla Clark, 9 - were found Tuesday in their burning home by firefighters. Homicide detectives said the victims suffered significant trauma unrelated to the fire.
As news spread Wednesday that sheriff's deputies had arrested an 18-year-old friend of Durfield's adult son and charged him with quadruple murder, relatives of the family gathered at the home on East Avenue J-3 to grieve at a memorial of stuffed animals, flowers, cards and candles.
Surviving sisters Enisha and Casondra Clark said their siblings "were beautiful young women."
"They were beloved by anyone they knew," Enisha Clark said. "They were motivated to try new things. They were looking forward to their futures, planning out careers and college. They reminded me why life was so fun."
Friends, neighbors and strangers dropped by throughout the day to pay their respects and place items at the memorial at the base of a tree in the front yard.
Durfield had worked about seven years as a surgical technician at Mayo hospital in Valencia. Ebony was a freshman at Eastside High School, Melinda went to New Vista Middle School, and Kayla was a student at Lincoln Elementary School, family said.
Enisha Clark, 22, said her mother worked hard to take care of her children.
"Being a single parent today in this world is not easy," Clark said. "She was a fighter. She fought for her kids. She taught me how to be strong. That's why I'm here right now."
Sheriff's homicide investigators early Wednesday arrested Corey King, described as a friend of Durfield's adult son, on suspicion of committing the quadruple slayings.
"We believe he is responsible for the murders," Lt. Pat Nelson said. "He was there at the house (the night before). It's my understanding at least one other person indicated he was there until 1 or 1:30 in the morning."
No motive has been determined, Nelson said. King, who had addresses in Lancaster and Altadena, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday after seeing on the news that he was being sought, Nelson said.
King is on probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor property theft in an Antelope Valley case. He was sentenced Aug. 15 to 60 days in jail, court officials said.
He was arrested Aug. 29 by Sheriff's Department Metrolink officers on suspicion of a misdemeanor, giving false information to an officer. He was cited and released Sept. 2, officials said.
Nelson said there may have been several people at the house in the 1500 block of East Avenue J-3 at various times the evening of the killings.
Nelson said that on Tuesday King took a car belonging to the victims and drove it near a Wal-Mart, where he shoplifted clothing.
"He shoplifted clothing items. He probably felt he needed to get out of the ones he was in," Nelson said. "We did recover some clothing that had some evidence that was consistent with blood."
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Nelson said someone, whom he did not want to identify, had taken the keys to the car. King returned to the car attempting to flee from the store, but found himself locked out. He kicked in one of the car windows, but found the keys gone.
"At that point, he was seen by witnesses jumping the wall into the neighborhood, and he escaped detection for several hours," Nelson said.
"Obviously it was a very brutal case. Any time that there's children involved, it's very difficult on everyone," Nelson said. "It's safe to say that the entire family was devastated. It was just a tragic, tragic event."
Doris Clark, the wife of a family cousin, said Durfield was a good mother.
"She loved her kids. She was a single parent at times.
"She took care of her kids from Day One. She lived for her kids," Clark said.
Clark's husband, Melvin Clark, expressed anger over the killings.
"It's bad for someone to kill three kids for nothing," he said. "If they wanted to kill somebody, they should've killed themselves."
Lancaster School District Superintendent Howard Sundberg said extra people were on hand at the Lincoln and New Vista campuses Wednesday to help distraught staffers and students.
"Clearly when something like that happens, ... kids are upset," Sundberg said.
Enisha Clark said she did not know King well, but had met him a couple of times. She said she was not a vengeful person, but wants whoever is responsible to be brought to justice.
"To lose my mother and three little sisters, innocent little girls," Clark said in anguish. "This person (who committed the crime) needs help."