NEW HAVEN -- A 25-year-old New Haven mother was shot and killed while sitting outside her home on Congress Avenue around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning. Francesca "LaLa" Ratchford, who leaves behind a 6-year-old son, was shot multiple times.
Witnesses tell New Haven police a shirtless man, with dreadlocks, was spotted running from the scene of the city's eight homicide of the year.
Diane Ratchford, the victim's mother, said she and her three children live in separate apartments on the third floor of the building where her oldest daughter was killed.
Theresa Bethea, whose father owns California Grocery, a 34-year-old establishment next door to the shooting scene, said "LaLa" and her son, Eryion, would come into her dad's store every day for sandwiches.
“She comes in every day with her son, orders sandwiches, sodas,” said Bethea. “She always seems friendly, gets along with everybody.”
Residents of this neighborhood, in the Hill section of New Haven, say it had been a quiet, pleasant place to live until early this morning. Now, they are shaken by the violence against the popular woman.
“Every time me and my husband would go to the laundromat, every time me and my husband would see her out, see her walking up and down the street, she always had her little son with her,” said Gwen Willett, who’s lived nearby for over four years. "The neighborhood is going to miss her. It's sad. When you start taking people’s lives like that you don't only kill the individual you kill a whole community. You kill a whole family.”
Some say they can count on one hand the number of times this particular part of New Haven has experienced any trouble. And, they never associated Ratchford with trouble.
“Lala was a beautiful young lady, as far as I'm concerned,” said Regina Brown, who’s lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years.
“I wonder at times why there isn't more of a collective moral outrage when this happens so regularly in our community,” said Pastor Troy McNulty, a non-denominational minister from New Haven who was ordained 17 years ago. “I've been to 87 homicides in about 5.2 years," he said.
McNulty, who is a car salesman during the days, hopes to change the violence with his activism. “I've been walking Newhallville every single night, building relationships with young men in the hopes that, by building those relationships and strengthening those relationships, that you'll have more of an avenue to speak to their hearts,” said McNulty.
Because Rotchford has no insurance, the family has setup a GoFundMe page for her funeral and burial costs.
Police are asking anyone with information to call detectives at 203-946-6304.