When Winston-Salem native Zyrale Jeter’s mother sent him away to college in Orangeburg, S.C., she was hoping to give him a fresh start.
“I wanted him to get away from Winston-Salem,” explained Paulette Williams, Jeter’s mother. “I wanted him to get away from his friends down here, go to another city and just get his stuff together.”
Jeter, a 2011 alumnus of Parkland IB Magnet High School, was attending Denmark Technical College to improve his GPA in hopes of transferring to Winston-Salem State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
“He’s a hard worker, he’s athletic, he’s very smart,” Williams said of Jeter, the oldest of her four children. “…He really had a great future ahead of him, he just needs to bring his grades up.”
But that bright future is uncertain now. The 20-year-old was arrested May 17. He and another man, Damon Jamar Moody, are being charged with attempted murder, attempted robbery and burglary in connection with a shooting incident that took place at the Orangeburg home of alleged drug dealers.
Williams said her son was denied bail, and the family has not been notified of a trial date.
“He’s been wrongly accused, and he’s just been sitting in jail,” she said. “He hasn’t done anything.”
Jeter, a member of St. Peter’s Church and World Outreach Center, has maintained that he was spending the night with his girlfriend when the shooting – which left two people wounded – took place in her trailer park. Jeter says he was sound asleep at the time the incident occurred and had nothing to do with the crime; his family supports his claim.
“He’s a very decent young man, never been in any major trouble,” said his maternal grandfather, Paul Jeter, who helped to rear Zyrale. “This is out of his character right here – this charge that they’re trying to put on him in Orangeburg, South Carolina – and everybody who knows him says it’s out of character.”
In an incident report provided by the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, Jalisha O’Neal, one of the residents of the home where the shooting took place, stated that “the other subject lived three trailers down from her with a female named Kiki. She further stated that the subject had a short box type hair cut with lines on the side of his head and a small strip of facial hair. She stated she knew he was from North Carolina and he attended Denmark Tech…”
Jeter’s family says none of the information contained in the report was presented at Jeter’s preliminary hearing.
“I don’t know much about the police department down there, but I assume they were trying to solve the crime right quickly, so they found somebody they could pin it on,” said Paul Jeter.
Jeter incurred a charge for shoplifting as a juvenile, but his family says the youthful indiscretion is a far cry from the charges he is currently facing. Jeter maintains his innocence.
His family says police searched Jeter’s girlfriend’s home and found nothing and failed to place Jeter in a lineup or conduct an analysis on his hands to detect gunpowder residue , measures that his family believes would have cleared his name.
Demetrius Jeter Young believes her nephew is the victim of circumstance.
“I’m flabbergasted; it makes you very angry that we still have this type of prejudice going on, that people will still go to these lengths to accuse someone,” she declared. “They stopped the first black male that they saw … it’s like they’re not looking for the truth.”
Williams, who injured her back in January and broke her ankle this spring, is unable to work because of her injuries, but after witnessing her son’s Sept. 7 hearing, she is determined to find him the help he needs to beat the charges, an effort which she believes has to start with the right attorney. Jeter is currently being represented by public defender R. Doulgas Mellard, whom the family says has done little to defend Jeter thus far. Mellard could not be reached for comment by The Chronicle’s press time on Tuesday.
Jeter’s loved ones recently launched a campaign in hopes of amassing at least a portion of the $14,000 in legal fees that Williams says will be needed to employ the law firm Glenn Waters and Associates of Orangeburg, S.C. in Jeter’s defense.
“I had to pretty much do what I had to do, no matter what the cost,” Williams said. “…Right now, he’s just sitting until I can get that $6,000 (retainer) in.”
New Generation Praise & Worship Ministries, 1850 Gyro Drive, will host a Justice for Zyrale Benefit Concert and Fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. To donate to the Zyrale Jeter Defense Fund, visit http://www.gofundme.com/4is8fc. For more information, contact Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.