HOLMBERG: What made this Richmond man kill his little boy, the mom and friend, then himself?

Posted at 11:19 PM, Oct 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-11 13:21:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- At least in the new day since Traymont Burton killed himself and four others at his mother's house on Roanoke Street in South Richmond, no one is offering a solid explanation of why he ambushed them Wednesday evening.

His minor criminal history didn't warn something like this could happen. There was apparently no history of domestic violence between he and his former girlfriend (and mother of his 2-year-old son) Michelle Kelly, a 21-year-old nurse and graduate of George Wythe High School. There doesn't appear to have been a restraining order, a police source said.

But in just a few minutes Wednesday at 8:20 p.m., Burton fired about a dozen rounds from his pistol inside his mother's house, killing his 2-year-old son, Keytrell, Michelle Kelly, her close friend Adreena Gary, 19, and then himself, police reported. Four dead at the scene.


Adreena, who had apparently given her friend a ride to her son's grandmother's house in this normally quiet neighborhood, collapsed outside.

Richmond police officers responding immediately to a 911 "shots fired" call, found her on the sidewalk as the final shots were being fired inside, a police source close to the case said.

Michelle's sister, Tenisha Kelly, lost "my best friend, my cousin and my nephew" in those few seconds of gunfire.


She and others said Traymont and Michelle had parted ways even before the baby was born. He had had some visitations, and had given no indication that something like this was brewing inside.

He was basically a pretty good young man, said Kathy Hunter, whose son was close friends with Traymont. "He had a good mom," she said. "She tried to stay on him, to keep him from out here" on the streets.

Brittane Gary, Adreena's sister, is haunted by not knowing the motive, and whether her sister felt fear in her last moments.

Clearly, from Michelle Kelly's Facebook page, her little boy was cherished. Two years of photographs make up the bulk of her images, most of them showing a happy, radiant boy.

But they also show recently posted photos of an unidentified man's arms and torso with fresh tattoos of Keytrell's and Michelle's names, proclaiming love. Could that have anything to do with Traymont's rampage, the worst in recent Richmond history?


The investigation continues. Funeral arrangements and assistance funding sites are is being finalized.

*An earlier version of this story contained the "baby's momma" versus the "baby's mother." Here's Mark Holmberg's response:

I apologize to those who I offended by using the term baby's momma in one portion of the story about the tragic triple murder and suicide that happened in South Richmond Wednesday.

I was reporting as I heard it, as I've heard that man-woman relationship described for a generation. I hope you read the whole story and watched the video. She was described all other times by name and as Keytrell's mom.

In no way was I attempting to minimize or dehumanize this tragedy. Quite the opposite. Clearly, this was a mother who cherished her child and a loyal friend who loved them both. The story was filled with the best photographs I could find that showed that relationship.

I made an honest and successful effort to get friends and family to talk.

The other stations kind of followed me and also got to the heart of the matter.

I've been reporting on the violence in Richmond for 25 years. I've been to more murder scenes and funerals than most folks have been to birthday parties. Covering this city's raw side has almost cost me my life on a few occasions.

As some of you know, I don't sugarcoat stuff. I've tried to show things the way they are. My stories have tended to be a little more raw and down-to-earth than most reporters.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
-- Mark Holmberg