The bodies of 38-year-old Michael Essien and his son Micah were found hours apart at two separate scenes in the Gulfton area of southwest Houston.
"Tell Houston, tell the whole world that I want my nephew back. He's only 2 years old. He does not know how to hurt a fly," Jessie Okon, the toddler's aunt, told us Wednesday. She doesn't understand why anyone would kill Michael either.
"My brother has always been a peaceful man. I need my brother back."
Michael was shot Tuesday afternoon on El Camino Del Rey Street near Chimney Rock Road. At the time, police had no idea his SUV had been taken with the 2-year-old inside.
Michael's wife called Wednesday evening to report her husband and child were missing, and that's when officers found the SUV on Elm Street near Renwick Drive. The little boy was unresponsive in the backseat and efforts to revive him failed.
News that a man had been arrested and charged in the case Wednesday was little consolation to the victims' heartbroken family.
“And for him, mostly for my nephew, God will give him his reward," Okon said.
Micah's cousin said he was a happy-go-lucky little boy.
“Micah is always cheerful, wants to be around someone – at church, always happy," Etimbuk Isaiah said.
Essien and his wife recently welcomed another baby and they also have an older son.
“She’s hanging on is all I can say. It’s a difficult thing to process right now and so tragic because nobody wakes up planning to die," Etimbuk Isaiah, a cousin, said. "And just taking it one day at a time, that’s all I can say."
Family members say Essien attended Hastings High School, attended college as an athlete and worked at a security company. He was wearing his security guard uniform when he was killed.
The suspect has been charged with two counts of murder and tampering with evidence, according to police. They haven't released his name yet but say he's the same man seen in surveillance video at a store near the shooting.
It's a case that has shaken the police officers who found Micah.
"It's the hardest thing we do. Children and, you know, children are innocent. It's the hardest thing we do. So it affects them," Asst. Exec. Chief Larry Satterwhite said at the scene Tuesday. "They tried to save this little boy ... but we will work with them, we will help them. But it is the hardest thing I've ever done and I've been here a long time."