CHARLOTTE - They are mothers who have experienced a parent's worst fear: a knock on the door from police who are there to tell them their child is dead because of a homicide.
"It's not normal to bury your child before you. That's not normal," said Sevyyn Doggette.
"There is a hole. There are many sleepless nights," said Lena Caldwell.
And they struggle to come to terms with the raw emotion that sometimes overflows when they think about the perpetrators who took their children's lives.
"I'm angry. I'm not a hateful person, but I hate you!" said Tara Finch speaking to her son's killer. "How dare you take his life. You didn't know him. He would've been your friend."
After 85 Charlotte murders in 2017, we gathered many of the mothers of the victims together to talk about the crime problem. They told us they're looking for answers so other parents don't have to go through what they have experienced.
"We don't want people in the future in other families to go through what we have gone through," said Andrea Schulman.
Police say about 22 percent of Charlotte's murders in 2017 were the result of domestic violence. Another 22 percent were the result of arguments, and 15 percent happened during robberies.
"It was a home invasion at three in the morning," recalled Schulman.
"My son was killed by someone that he loved that he thought was in love with him," said Edna Graham.
And the women say violence in our society is not "someone else's problem."
"This problem transcends socioeconomic status, race, gender," said Finch. "If we are not raising our children to value human life, and we are raising them with hate and anger and bitterness. They're growing up to be violent."
"There is no village! They say it takes a village to raise a child. There is no more village!" said Doggette.
"There's just too much violence on television and in the theatres," said Schulman.
The women agree that stopping the violence must start at home with parents re-educating the youngest citizens and holding them accountable.
"A lot of parents make excuses for everything their children do," said Finch. "Or they don't want to hear about it, or know about it, or they turn a blind eye."
Finch's son Zach was killed when he met strangers to buy a cellphone that he saw advertised on an app.
"They have passed laws in Zachary's name to create safe zones for exchanges for online internet transactions and those are good things," she said. But, she says she did not want her son to die a martyr.
The mothers want more crime prevention and solutions. Some would like more gun control.
"It should be tougher laws for anybody, especially with felons," offered Natalie Thompson.
Others would like to see tougher punishments for juvenile offenders and their parents.
"If you have a child that's a repeat offender, and you haven't exhausted resources and ignored the problem, then you're liable," said Finch.
Andrea Shulman told us she wants to see more police on the streets.
"If we can just get city government to give the police force more money to hire more good detectives," she said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Captain Chris Dozier leads the department's violent crimes division. He says he currently has 26 detectives working cases.
"We understand the pain and suffering. It's very real to us," he said. "That's one of the driving forces that keeps these detectives working 20/30 hours straight because they see that and they have children of their own."
Of the 85 murders in 2017, Dozier said they have made arrests in 55 cases.
He says he's hoping people with information will come forward to help his detectives clear the rest.
"That's what we ask from the public is to come forward with any information that they have, because it may be that one piece that we need," he explained.
The mothers are joining together to support each other as they grieve.
"You all are my family now cause we all are going through the same thing," said Doggette.
The women say they will do what they can to prevent other parents from feeling the unimaginable pain.
"This is my test. This was my test from God. I'm gonna turn it into my testimony," said Thompson.
"If I can save one young male, female. This is what happened to my son. This is what happens when you don't think and you pick up a gun," said Doggette.
"Tell your children that you love them and hug them because you never know when it's going to be the last one," said Graham.
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