GRIFFIN, Ga. — On Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced a new effort in the state to crack down on criminal gangs who officials said are responsible for a large percentage of crime.
The governor and state officials, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is tasked with investigating many gang-related cases, outlined their plan on how to get those perpetrators off the streets.
But as officials work to curb alleged gang activity, the fiancée of Jeffrey Ryan Deluca is speaking for the very first time about him being shot and killed while she and their children were home. Investigators said it was all part of a gang initiation.
"He always wanted boys," Taylor Lyons remembered of her late-husband. She said they met as teens and later became high school sweethearts before becoming parents to two boys Aaron and Jaylon.
"His whole life was dedicated to the boys and myself," she said.
But their dream life was tragically taken away from them, when, back on July 24, 2020, investigators said four men -- Xavier Carter, Robert Freeman, Ryan Willis and Damarion Sinkfield -- drove to the Walden Pointe Apartments in Griffin where the family lived.
Detectives say they went to a third floor unit, and when Deluca opened the door, he was shot and killed. Lyons and their boys were in the other room.
"Ryan had just put them in the bed, but they were still up," she recounted.
In a press release, District Attorney for the Griffin Circuit Marie Broden said the crime was allegedly committed so that Xavier Carter was able to join the Rolling 20s neighborhood Bloods gang.
Broder said she's seen first-hand the impact gangs can have on the lives of young people across the state.
"I go into the schools, and I’m seeing gang members that are recruiting children," she said. "Children ten, eleven, twelve (years old)."
Broder said the Deluca case was a "clear example" of that type of recruitment, explaining that Sinkfield was reportedly recruited at the age of 12. Carter was 19 during his reported initiation. The shooting, according to Broder, was overseen by Freeman, who was 26 at the time.
Carter and Freeman were convicted last week on a list of charges, including felony murder. Both were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sinkfield, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to felony murder, while Willis is still awaiting trial.
Though the case does have some closure, Lyons said she's left with only being able to show her sons pictures and videos of their dad.
"It breaks my heart every day that he wasn’t able to carry on what he wanted," she said.