Family pleads for justice in 2015 murder of Army Sgt. Calvin Wilhite

Published: May. 30, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memorial Day is the day we honor our soldiers killed on the battlefield.

But for the mother of one Mid-South soldier, this holiday is the day she grieves her son’s death on the streets of Memphis while waging her own war to bring his killers to justice.

“I pray,” Valerie Henderson told Action News 5. “I know it’s coming and it’s so difficult because I relive the day I got the phone call.”

It was Memorial Day 2015 when Henderson’s oldest son, 26-year-old Army Sgt. Calvin Wilhite was gunned down near 4th and MLK in downtown Memphis after an exchange with two men cruising by in a silver-looking sedan.

“I don’t want him to be just a number,” said Henderson. “He was a soldier. He served his country, training to go to Afghanistan two weeks before he was gunned down. So I want to keep his name alive.”

The only photos of the suspects in the car, including the gunman leaning out of the window, are grainy and hard to make out. Despite expert analysis and forensic examination of the surveillance shots, no license plate number was ever visible.

Seven years later there have still been no arrests in the case.

“On Memorial Day, only to be gunned down by FedExForum on Beale Street with thousands and thousands of people, and tourists and people that live here and for no one to come forward?” said Henderson, “It’s hard. It’s hard.”

Every year on the anniversary of her son’s death, Valerie and family members host a vigil near the spot where Calvin died, even gathering during the pandemic. She brings candles, bracelets and balloons to remember “Coo,” his nickname.

Daughter Nevaeh, just 4 when her father was killed, is now almost 11. She’s part of a close-knit family whose collective heart was torn out by street violence in Memphis.

Henderson’s pride and joy, a young man who served his country with honor, may be gone, but he is definitely not forgotten. His mother will keep fighting as long as it takes to make sure Coo’s killers are caught. But she needs someone to come forward with information.

“Something small that you may think doesn’t matter,” she said. “But it does. It might be the missing link we need that the Memphis Police Department needs to put this together so we can bring those cowards to justice.”

The family is offering a $20,000 reward in the case. CrimeStoppers is offering a $2,000 reward. If you know anything, you can report your tip to 901-528-CASH.

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