DECATUR – Cesley Taylor, a 21-year-old woman who was fatally shot during a robbery on Labor Day in her northside apartment, was known as a cheerful soul who loved to laugh and spend time with children and young people.
Shortly before her death, Taylor, a 2013 graduate of Eisenhower High School, worked at Progress City USA, where she helped set up tents and performed other tasks for two weeks.
“She worked so hard at Farm Progress,” said her mother, Tocora Taylor, during an interview in her home. “ I was very proud of her.”
Cesley was happy with the paycheck she earned under hot, grueling conditions. She showed it to her mother.
“She came over here,” Taylor recalled. “I think that's the last time I saw her.”
Four 16-year-old boys – each charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and attempted first-degree murder – appeared in court Wednesday morning to present their attorneys.
They are being held in the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center. Their cases were automatically transferred to adult court.
Taylor said she previously met one of the teens involved in the robbery, during which Cesley was allegedly shot four times by Darion Evans. Taylor's roommate, 20-year-old Britney Wilson, suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Evans confessed to being the shooter, police said.
Taylor said she met Ryan O'Neal while he was at Cesley's apartment in May. Her intuition told her Cesley should not associate with the teens.
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Shaitan Cook Jr. and Daiquan Cline are also charged in the case.
“She loved kids,” Taylor said, adding that she tried to influence young people to stay in school and avoid trouble.
A photograph of Cesley wearing her graduation cap and a bright smile sits in a prominent place in the Taylor living room.
“When she got that diploma, that was the happiest day of her life,” Taylor said.
After graduation, she attended Parkland College for one year, Taylor said. She returned home to Decatur, after learning that her grandmother was ill.
Taylor, who gave birth to Cesley when she was 16, said she raised her along with the help of Cesley's grandmothers.
“She had three mommies and a daddy,” Taylor said. “She was a very loved kid.”
Cesley was a tough girl, who would not have been a robbery victim if the teens had not been armed, her mother said.
“She was strong,” Taylor said. “They couldn't have just fought her.”
Taylor said words could not express how badly she feels.
“My nights are very bad,” she said. “I don't get any sleep. I can't give up because I have two more kids. I miss her so much.”