Dylann Roof victims: What jurors heard about those killed in Charleston church massacre

Photographs of the nine victims killed at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, are held up by congregants during a prayer vigil at the Metropolitan AME Church on June 19, 2015, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Photographs of the nine victims killed at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, are held up by congregants during a prayer vigil at the Metropolitan AME Church on June 19, 2015, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

One was a pastor and senator known for his ability to listen to his congregants and constituents with equal regard. Another was a recent college graduate who, with his final breaths, tried to comfort his elderly great-aunt, who was also dying.

Jurors weighing the fate of Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white nationalist convicted of killing nine people inside a historic black Charleston church in 2015, spent days this week and last learning about his victims. Family members and friends took the stand, one after another, to describe the lives lost and the holes left behind.

Besides Emanuel AME Church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Roof killed eight church members who welcomed him into their Bible study on the night of June 17, 2015. The victims included the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. and Myra Thompson.

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Below are some of the things jurors learned about each of Roof’s victims.

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41

Pinckney served his community as both pastor of Mother Emanuel, one of the oldest black churches in the United States, and as the youngest black legislator in South Carolina history. A pastor since the age of 18, Pinckney was just 23 when he became a state representative in 1996. He was elected to the state senate in 2000.

His wife, Jennifer Pinckney, testified during the penalty phase of Roof's trial that she and the couple's 6-year-old daughter, Malana Pinckney, were in her husband's church office when they heard the gunfire erupt in the fellowship hall. They heard the murders as they cowered under a secretary's desk in an adjoining room.

Jennifer Pinckney described her husband as a “voice for the voiceless.”

"He was always listening to people and he would carry those issues back to Columbia with him," Jennifer Pinckney said, according to the Post and Courier.

Pinckney was also a doting father who instilled a love of reading and the importance of education in Malana and her older sister, Eliana. Shortly before he was slain, he asked one of the girls to write a report on the history of New Orleans, which the family had plans to visit.

The little girl never got the chance to give her father that report, Jennifer Pinckney testified.

Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45

Coleman-Singleton was a high school speech pathologist and girls track coach who also served as a minister at Emanuel AME Church.

Rita Whitbee, a longtime friend of Coleman-Singleton, testified about her friend's love and generosity. ABC News reported that Coleman-Singleton signed a blank check when Whitbee was going through a divorce and told her friend to make it out for however much she needed.

Camryn Singleton, the victim’s daughter, told jurors she could talk to her mother about anything. Coleman-Singleton, she said, loved her unconditionally.

She said she wished she could hug her mother once again, ABC News said.

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Hurd was the branch manager of one of Charleston County’s busiest public library branches. She also served on the Charleston Housing Authority’s board for many years.

Her brother, Malcolm Graham, has served as a North Carolina senator since 2005.

Graham took the stand to talk about the death of his sister, which he said has broken his heart, reported The State in Columbia.

"When I found out about her passing, I was totally lost," Graham testified, according to the newspaper. "There's something missing. I can't go to the store to replace it. I can't reinvent it."

He said his older sister had always driven him to be better -- a better student, a better father, a better husband. She helped him raise his daughters and, when their parents died decades ago, she became the matriarch of their family.

Jackie Jones, Hurd and Graham’s sister, also leaned on her sister. She told jurors that, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer two months before her sister’s murder, Hurd was the first person she called, even before her husband.

Since her death, a Charleston city library has been renamed in her honor, The State reported. Graham told jurors that is his favorite memorial to her.

"Her name is surrounded by books," he said.

Susie Jackson, 87

Jackson was the oldest victim of the Emanuel massacre. Loved ones described her as the matriarch of her family, but also of the church she loved.

The Jackson family is one of the largest at Emanuel, her son, Walter Jackson Sr., testified, according to WCIV in Charleston. Jackson described how his mother would travel just to see her children and grandchildren for any special occasion, from birthdays to kindergarten graduations. She was known to cook her children's favorite meals any time they would visit.

She adopted anyone she met, he testified, joking that she had about 200 “nieces” and “nephews” as a result, the news station said. Susie Jackson’s grandson, Walter Jackson Jr., fondly remembered how his grandmother gave him the nickname “Bernie” when he was born.

"I had a cool grandma," Jackson Jr. said, according to the news station. "'No' really wasn't in her vocabulary. My grandmother said yes to pretty much everything. People would just show up to her house. There would always be food. There would be a place for people to just be relaxed. I know she never said no to me, but I was her favorite grandson."

Ethel Lee Lance, 70

Like Jackson, Lance was described as the matriarch of her family and the church. Her daughter, the Rev. Sharon Risher, testified that the shooting left "holes in the fabric of what made our family," WCIV reported.

“On June 17, 2015, there was no more material for the fabric; it was just tattered pieces,” Risher said. “There was nobody there to keep it together, to sew the patches back together so now, we have tattered pieces, and I know that would devastate her.”

Risher described the tough life her mother had, beginning with becoming an unwed mother at the age of 14, the news station said. She used her struggles to teach her children by example.

Risher said she and her family have lost the one person who “loves each of (them) in that special way.”

"I can't be her. I can't replace her," Risher said, according to the station. "As much as I want to guide my family and to be there for them, but at this time I can't."

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49

Middleton-Doctor was a minister at Emanuel AME Church known for her singing voice, which friends described as "angelic." The mother of four daughters, she retired in 2005 as the director of Charleston County's Community Development Block Grant Program. According to the Post and Courier, she later worked as an admissions coordinator for Southern Wesleyan's Charleston learning center.

Bethane Middleton testified that her sister had a passion for faith and prayer, ABC News reported. She was a strict mother, but loved her children more than anything. She celebrated a daughter's graduation two weeks before she died.

Middleton told jurors that she is now raising her sister’s two youngest children.

Tywanza Sanders, 26

Sanders, a recent college graduate, was planning to begin additional schooling when he died. The youngest of the victims, Sanders tried to reason with Roof before being killed.

He died with his hand touching the hair of Susie Jackson, his elderly great-aunt. His mother, Felicia Sanders, was one of only three survivors of the massacre, along with her 11-year-old granddaughter, who she shielded from Roof’s view and convinced to play dead.

Shirrene Goss, Tywanza Sanders' sister, remembered him on Monday as "very determined," WCIV reported. She said he was stubborn, but affectionate, and fearless.

Goss, who took care of her brother as a baby, laughingly recalled that he had just one fear growing up -- flushing the toilet.

Sanders’ father, Tyrone Sanders, remembered his son as a prankster who always seemed to have ideas for making money, from running a lemonade stand to selling air fresheners. In later years, father and son would often take trips together.

"I miss fishing with him," Tyrone Sanders testified, WCIV reported. "I miss him being on the road with me. I miss the debates we used to have. I miss yelling at him and telling him to come put the trash out. And I miss a lot about him."

Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., 74

A retired pastor, Simmons helped teach at Emanuel.

His son, Dan Simmons Jr., told jurors that his father loved teaching, his family and cars. He would often call just to check up on his grandchildren.

The last time they saw one another, Simmons Jr. said, they worked on a car together, ABC News reported.

Dan Simmons testified that he learned about the shooting from a cousin and, when he turned on the television, he saw his father being wheeled away on a stretcher. Rev. Simmons, the only victim to be found alive when police arrived, died at the hospital.

Rev. Simmons usually carried a gun, but did not have it on him that night, ABC News said. His son later obtained his keys from law enforcement officials and found the weapon on the front seat of his father's car.

Myra Thompson, 59

An English teacher, Thompson went back to school for both a counseling degree and a degree to become a literacy specialist so she could better help the children she worked with, the Post and Courier reported. She was also active in the church and, on the night of the massacre, led the Bible study for the first time.

Her husband, the Rev. Anthony Thompson, testified that his wife spent months preparing for the opportunity.

She left home that night with a “glow, this smile on her face, like she was radiant,” he testified. He said his gaze met hers in their hallway, but he felt paralyzed, like he couldn’t reach her. Then she was out of the door.

Anthony Thompson recalled for jurors the awful call he received later that night, telling him of the shooting at the church.

"She was everything I had, everything I ever wanted, and my life will never be the same. Never, never, never," Thompson testified, according to the newspaper.