Former neighbors recall victim’s spirit

Hard-working, sweet, conscientious. That is how Chiarra Seals, 23, was described by close neighbors in her former residence on James Street.

Police say Seals was killed in her home at 160 Jasper St. Wednesday, and her body was found Thursday morning in a suitcase behind a garage on Avondale Road. Brian T. Shaw, the father of her 4-year-old daughter, was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder and arraigned in court Friday.

Residents of The Courtyard, Seals’ former home, were shocked to learn of her death, and remembered her warmly. They had seen the report on television but had not realized it was her until Friday.

‘This is sad,’ said a resident of the apartment building who asked her name not run in print. ‘My heart went out when I heard it on TV … she called me ‘grandma.”

Seals lived in the building for about two years until she recently moved to Jasper Street, where she was killed, said Angela Halsell, her ‘cousin’ and a resident of the building.

‘I can’t believe it,’ she repeated over and over. ‘I knew her for almost 3 years. She worked hard to take care of her kids.’

Halsell was in disbelief when she heard the news.

‘She did my little girl’s hair on Sunday,’ Halsell said. ‘Our daughters played together.’ Halsell added that her younger child and Seals’ younger son would also often play together and got along well.

Halsell said she and Seals often talked and joked together. Halsell’s aunt is married to Seals’ grandfather, and they affectionately called each other cousins.

‘Grandma’ described Seals as a feisty, beautiful girl who always dressed nicely and worked hard for her children.

Latonya Hall, ‘grandma’s’ granddaughter, who lives with her, remarked several times how smart Seals’ 4-year-old daughter is. Hall often babysat for Seals, and she told of how the 4-year-old would pick up a magazine and begin reading it, and offer to ‘fix’ things around the house.

‘Grandma’ says she told Seals to ‘make sure she (the 4-year-old) goes to school, because she’s really smart.’ She added that she enjoyed the children coming over and listening to Seals’ daughter read to her.

The 4-year-old daughter was very important in linking Shaw, who is her father, to Seals’ death. She provided the police with several details that helped them connect him with the incident.

Thomas Seals, Seals’ great-uncle and Syracuse Common Councilor for the Syracuse University and downtown areas, echoed these sentiments about Seals’ daughter.

‘(Chiarra’s daughter) is a smart little girl for a 4-year-old,’ Thomas Seals said. ‘(She) was the one to give them the lead.’

After Seals moved to Jasper Street, Halsell went to her new house to visit and bring her a job application, since Seals had just lost her job at St. Camillus Health and Rehabilitation Center. She remarked at how big the kitchen was in Seals’ new house, and how pleased Seals was with it because ‘she liked nice things.’

Halsell said she was not aware of the nature of the relationship between Seals and Shaw. She added that Seals did not usually discuss it.

Thomas Seals also said, ‘She keeps to herself. She’s not one to bother other people with her problems.’

He also described her as a free spirit who always had a smile on her face.

‘She was a sweet person, and she worked hard,’ ‘grandma’ said. ‘She was taking care of her family.’

EDITOR IN CHIEF ROB HOWARD AND ASST. NEWS EDITOR HEATHER COLLURA CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT

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