Vibrant pencil-etched paintings and figures hang in frames – a tribute to the artist.
Loved ones will remember seeing the hand that created the works, abstract portraits and vivid landscapes made by the young mother’s shading and strokes. This art is the story of a blossoming life before it was cut short.
Sidney Kurtz said each of her family members has an illustration hanging in their home. . Sheila and Sydney, sisters who are only a year apart in age, grew up hip and bonded. Dance classes, play dates – followed where one was, the other not far behind.
However, even as a curly-haired elementary school student, Sheila had the radiance that her sister longed for. was not included. She added color to her sister’s life as she skipped and sang Sheila.
“She taught me to always be myself and not care what other people think,” she said. “You are beautiful just the way you are.”
Her constant independence made young Shayla seem more grown-up than her family was prepared for at times. I remembered and laughed. Her family frantically started looking for her.
A few minutes later, they found the girl in line at a coffee shop inside the terminal. Seeing the relief on their faces, I couldn’t understand why everyone cared about me. She just wanted Starbucks.
But like anyone with decades of life experience, Shayla had a depth that made her very smart.
“She had her own way,” said Grauel. “And she was so special in her own way.”
With a baby girl coming soon, the 31-week-old mother was living a fulfilling life. She cherished spending time with her two young children, her energetic 4-year-old Maas and smiling baby Winter.
Her children’s names were intended to fit the celestial theme. Sheila was fascinated by angels and spirituality. She named her child, whom she was holding, Soleil, which means “sun” in French. Sidney said that Shayla personified light, so her name was fitting.
“She was shining brightly,” she said. “She was just who she was.”
But on December 6th, the young mother’s light was forever dimmed at the hands of gunmen. Just as the photos of her life began to come together, a close friend of her family left the dark space.
December 6th shooting
Emmett Williams, 33, has been charged with Sheila’s death, according to documents filed in Jackson County Circuit Court. His arraignment is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
On the night Kurtz died, the Kansas City Police Department was dispatched to 4900 Bellefontaine Avenue around 8:00 p.m., officers entered the residence and found the young mother unresponsive. Witnesses told detectives that a man had visited the house Kurtz had been staying in the night before and said he was leaving abruptly.
Both reported hearing gunshots before seeing someone drive north through Bellefontaine, prosecutors say.
Around 4:15 a.m., Williams is said to have called 911 from Block 2600 on Blue Parkway and confessed to “shooting someone.” In an interview with a homicide detective, Williams said he “snapped” because he’s been dealing with emotional and substance abuse issues. He then took them to a wooded area, where he hid a 9 mm gun and other belongings, according to prosecutors.
Sidney said Williams was a relative of someone who lived in the house, but he and Sheila were not friends. She went downstairs.
Minutes before her death, Kurtz updated the situation on Facebook.
“Bro wtf are some people wrong???”
Motherhood, matching outfits, and more time
Dressed in pink and blue floral gowns, young Shayla and Sydney posed for photos side by side. Their mother, her Dezirae Curts, always dressed them in matching clothes. Like twins, there is a slight age difference, Sydney said.
The girls grew up in Johnson County and attended several elementary schools. Shayla spent her playtime coloring her 2D models and cutting and pasting her self-designed paper costumes into frames. The girls befriended their younger cousins, especially Reese, who is now 21, and accompanied them to school and social events.
“Three peas in a pod,” Sydney called them.
After years of matching, Shayla adopted her own style. In high school, students at Park Hill South practiced makeup and dreamed of being artists who spent all day in the studio painting. She graduated with that goal deep in her heart.
In 2018, she welcomed Mars into the world. The baby was a surprise, but full of joy and anticipation. With her baby in her arms, she told her sister and she realized what was really important: all her past concerns paled in comparison. From then on her life revolved around her children.
It wasn’t always easy, Grauel said. Like many people, Sheila had a hard time realizing how beautiful she was. Before she was murdered, she was finally beginning to recognize what her family saw in her, and she became more proud of her art and who she had become. If I had had a little more time, I could not have stopped.
Grauel believes his granddaughter would have helped other young people who went through a similar struggle. It was Sheila. She is always accepting and willing to guide others along the way.
“She would have given back in this world like no one knows,” she said. “She could change the world – she really could.”
Sheila turned to her best friend, her mother, for support. Shayla and Desirae would constantly talk and face each other, joking about the quirks and surprises of the day. Sheila was always ready for her with a whim that turned into her stomach-churning laughter.
Grauel remembers laughing like when she dressed in her father-in-law’s clothes and completely imitated his voice, gait, etc. Harmless pranks were the norm.
“Shay was the light in the room,” said Aunt Darcy Kurtz. “She always wanted to make people laugh.”
The family is currently working on the empty space. There is silence where there should be laughter.
“I have to say goodbye, and I don’t know what to do,” said Darcy.
“Her death will not be in vain”
Williams was charged with second-degree murder and armed crime in Sheila’s death.
But Sidney said he hopes Williams will be charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sheila Kurtz and baby Soleil. She feels doubly wronged by Williams and wants the severity of his charges to reflect the impact of what was stolen.
“I want him to be given the ultimate punishment,” she said. “He stole my niece, her baby.”
Jackson County Attorney’s Office spokesman Mike Manser said prosecutors on Friday will evaluate the case to determine whether additional charges will be filed regarding her pregnancy.
Sheila was killed, but her grandmother says the family wants to keep her memory alive. She promises that something positive will come out of this tragedy. It offers hope, like the many small acts of kindness that young mothers have already done for so many.
“If she saw someone in the parking lot struggling to put groceries in their car, she would stop whatever she was doing and help them do it,” she said. “Her death will not be in vain.”
Despite her death, as they look for ways to honor her legacy, they recall how Sheila shone brightly. All the ways she taught them to live their best life.
Grauel remembers a girl who cornered her with the question, “Why are we here?” And she was like, “Where are you going?” But it was Sheila who showed her a lot. How to have fun, how to stand out, and most importantly, how to love well.
“The world lost a beautiful soul the day she died,” she said.