Victims in Joliet mass murder remembered as loving family

‘In spite of what happened, they were amazing people’

Cara Esters (center) shares her grief at a Sunday vigil for the deaths of seven people, including two of Esters' sisters, on Jan 21 on West Acres Road in Joliet. Jan. 28, 2024.

Family, friends and people from the community gathered Sunday to remember with love the seven people killed a week ago in a shooting rampage on West Acres Road in Joliet.

The vigil shed some light on who was killed when Romeo Nance fatally shot seven members of his family and a stranger before heading out of town and eventually shooting himself when authorities caught up with him in Texas.

It also may have made the shootings more inexplicable.

“They were amazing people,” Latisha Fox, who helped organize the vigil, said of the members of the Nances and Esters families who were killed. “They were loved, but they also were loving people. They gave you love and laughter.”

Latisha Fox, longtime friend of Christine Esters, one of the victims in the Jan. 21 shootings in Joliet, is overcome with grief at one point as she leads a vigil on Sunday on West Acres Road to pay tribute to the people who lost their lives. Jan. 29, 2024.

The vigil was outside the Esters house in the 2200 block of West Acres Road.

That house and another across the street where the Nances lived were the scenes of the gruesome killings Jan. 21.

A poster at the front door showed the faces of the victims, smiling and looking like the people described by those at the vigil.

“It gives us some comfort witnessing just how loved our family members are,” Cara Esters told the couple of hundred people gathered on the sidewalk and street. “We know that their lives, legacies and enormous personalities will live on.”

A composite photograph of the members of the Nance and Esters families who lost their lives in the Jan. 21 shootings in Joliet was posted at the front door of the Esters' house on West Acres Road for a vigil held Sunday. Jan. 28, 2024.

Esters later told reporters about happy times at the house on West Acres Road, where the family would gather for Christmas and other holidays.

Asked how much family was left after the killings, Esters said they were “small, but mighty.”

Esters lost two sisters in the shooting: Christine Esters, 38, and Tameaka Nance, 47.

Christine Esters was a correctional officer at the Joliet Treatment Center on McDonough Street, her sister said, and was following in the footsteps of their parents who were correctional officers at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill.

Tameaka Nance was a registered nurse, as well as the mother of Romeo and three daughters and a son killed in the shootings.

An employee of the Illinois Department of Corrections, where Christine Esters worked before she became one of the seven victims in a shooting rampage on West Acres Road in Joliet, joined a vigil held Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024 to pay tributde to the victims.

Christine Esters and William Esters, 35, were siblings who resided at the house where the vigil took place. William worked as a machinist and security guard.

William was described by more than one person at the vigil as a protector.

“He made sure everybody was safe,” said Brian Kohl, a friend and co-worker. “Everybody was family to him.”

Kenneth Coleman, a local pastor, talked about the two youngest victims, Alonnah Nance, 16, and Angelique Nance, 14. He had coached them on a school basketball team.

“They were good young ladies and very talented,” Coleman said.

Balloons are released in a tribute to those who lost their lives during a vigil at the scene of the shootings on West Acres Road in Joliet on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.

Their sister Alexandria Nance, 20, a student at Joliet Junior College, lost her life in the shootings, as did their brother Joshua Nance, 31, who also was remembered with a makeshift memorial at a tree in the front yard of the house where the vigil took place.

In addition to the Nance and Esters family members, Toyosi Bakari, 28, was shot to death in what police believe to be a random act by Romeo Nance as he was leaving town. An unnamed Joliet man also was shot in the leg and survived.

No one tried to make sense of the killings during the course of the vigil.

“We pray that the Lord helps us through this horrific time,” Deon Hayes, pastor of the One Vision World Center in Joliet, said in his prayer at the vigil. “Help us, God, even though we don’t understand this.”

Hayes did not try to explain why Romeo Nance killed his own mother in the shootings.

“She was a sweet girl and came to church every Sunday,” Hayes said of Tameaka Nance. “She would bring people to the church.”

The purpose of the vigil, Fox said, was to remember those who lost their lives for who they were, which was more than victims in a seemingly senseless shooting rampage.

“In spite of what happened,” Fox said, “they were amazing people.”