Cold Case: WLOX revisits the case of Karol Bolton

One decade later, Bolton’s family is still searching for answers — who pulled the trigger, and why?
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 6:22 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - When Karol Bolton told her family members she wanted to go to a party, they were uneasy about it. However, after a week of college classes and hitting the books, they felt she deserved to go and have some fun.

Less than half an hour into the party, she was shot.

One decade later, Bolton’s family is still searching for answers — who pulled the trigger, and why? They believe the only way they can find out is if no one forgets about Karol.

“To have that news knock on your front door, you hear about it, you see the movies,” said Karol’s sister-in-law Romeshia Johnson. “Life has definitely changed for all of us.”

“We can all sit here and carry on in life, but closure is always going to mess with you mentally,” Karol’s brother Jonathan stated.

An aspiring nurse, best friend and life of the party, Karol Bolton is described as a ray of sunshine with a light that was impossible to dim.

“She was full of life,” described Justice Washington, a friend of Karol’s. “That girl was silly, loving and loved being with her family. Loved family time. She was goofy.”

“She liked dancing, her laugh,” added Alysha Barnes, also a friend of Karol’s.

“Loved to sing but couldn’t sing,” aunt Tammy Bohanan joked.

Karol was just 18 years old when gunfire ended her dreams outside of O’Neal Road Apartments in Gulfport. She had just started classes at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. On September 7, 2013, she opted not to go to the movies with her family, but instead, attend her first college party — a chance to relax a little and have fun with friends.

“I didn’t want her to go,” said grandmother Ester Ludgood. “She said, ‘Granny, I ain’t been nowhere since school let out. At least let me go.’ So, I said okay. But it bothered me. For some reason, it just bothered me that she went. She wasn’t gone probably 15, 20 minutes before they called and told me my baby had been shot.”

Karol’s friends who were at the party called the night chaotic, with about 100 people coming and going. Then, shots rang out, and a bullet hit Karol.

“Once the shooting started happening, everybody just started running,” Alysha said. “When we started looking back up and everybody started looking for her, she was holding herself down by a car. We were going to try to drive her, but they said not to move her, to let her lay down flat.”

Karol was rushed to Garden Park Medical Center.

“When they were pulling her off the ambulance, I really thought she was going to be fine,” explained Jonathan. “I told her, ‘I’m right here.’ She lifted her hand up.”

Jonathan and other family members held hole, knowing she was a fighter. However, the bullet that hit her in the abdomen did more damage than the doctors could repair.

“When the doctor came out and when they took me into the chapel, I just blanked out after that,” Romeshia said.

A decade later, family members are left with wounds that still haven’t healed.

“They took our baby from us,” said Tammy. “That was everybody’s baby.

“Me and my aunt, we were very, very close,” Karol’s niece, A’mya Johnson remembered. “She was about my age that I am now — I’m 20. Growing up, we were very, very close. She was my listening ear. I was young, rebellious. She was the one I would talk to. I was like 11 when she passed away. I didn’t know how to handle death. This was the first big kind of experience for me. It was hard. It was very, very hard.”

“That was not only my sister-in-law,” added Romeshia. “She was like my sister. She was like my other child. She was my secret keeper and I was hers. She was my everything.”

In the initial investigation into her death, WLOX learned Gulfport Police were looking for two suspects who fled the scene before officers arrived. Even as days passed and bled into weeks and years, there were no arrests nor answers.

Still, Karol’s family hopes one day, someone will come forward.

“It’s never too late,” said Romeshia. “I watch the news and cases have been solved 10, 15, 20 years, so I’m going to stay faithful because I’m a praying person. I believe in faith. I believe in God.”

The faith keeps Karol’s memory alive, along with pictures, paintings and crosses that adorn the walls of her childhood home.

“We keep her alive. Her spirit, we feel her, every time we are around each other. When we do family pictures, we don’t exclude her. We put something in the midst of our pictures to make sure she stays alive because that’s what she loved.”

Her family doesn’t leave home without Karol wrapped around them.

“We still wear these shirts,” said Tammy. “When we go out, we wear these shirts. We’re going to wear them until we get justice for her.”

“There’s such a thing as a cold case, but we’re not calling this a cold case,” said Romeshia. “We’re going to keep this thing alive until justice is served.”

Original investigators on this case tell us there were interviews conducted with potential suspects, but they only have circumstantial evidence. Gulfport PD needs more witnesses to come forward and explain what they saw.

Those with info should contact Gulfport PD at 228-868-5900 or Crime Stoppers at 877-787-5898.

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