Woman surprises best friend with Norfolk billboard showing their sons who died from gun violence

Samad Brailsford.PNG
Posted at 4:42 PM, Feb 16, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - Two best friends both carry the burden of losing their sons. They have been grieving and supporting each other for years.

But Tuesday, one of the women got a major surprise from the other.

The mother of Samad Brailsford, Vanessa Pearson, surprised her best friend, Cheryl Moore, with a billboard near the intersection of E. Princess Anne Rd. and Ballantine Blvd. in Norfolk.

The billboard showed images of both of their sons, Brailsford and Jontaz Moore.

“It’s a beautiful thing, and we thank her. We thank her so much,” said Jacqueline Pittman, Jontaz’s aunt.

Moore was shot and killed back in October 2013. Jilil J. Sharpe was convicted of the crime and is currently serving a sentence at the Wallens Ridge State Prison. He is expected to be released in March 2027, according to the Department of Corrections website.

Brailsford was killed in 2017, and no one had been arrested. It happened on October 28 in the 1300 block of Oklahoma Avenue in Norfolk. Brailsford died from a gunshot wound. His family told News 3 there have been conflicting reports of what happened, but they believe there are people out there who know what happened and are not reporting it to police.

Alesia Spencer is Brailsford’s aunt who was there the day he was born. She said he was more like a son to her and that she helped raise him. Spencer said Brailsford was working as a supervisor and had his life in order. He had two children, who are now 5 and 7 years old.

“I feel like I lost a son. People don’t understand that. I stood beside his bed that morning holding his hand, begging for them not tell me that this was the end because I couldn’t accept that,” said Spencer.

She said he was a loving person with so much to offer the world.

Pearson said she paid to have another billboard put up near Virginia Beach Blvd. and Kempsville Rd. in Norfolk. She said she is offering a reward of $277,000 for information about the person who killed her son. She said there is also a third billboard going up in the City of Norfolk in the near future.

Pearson praised the work of Norfolk detectives and said they have kept in touch with her over the past three and a half years, adding they keep her well informed of updates with the case.

“I have a large reward, and I won’t stop until I get justice,” said Pearson.

Spencer said one of the most difficult parts of this family tragedy is answering questions from Brailsford's children.

“The children asking, ‘Where is my daddy?’ when they come to our house. They see pictures of him displayed everywhere, so they’re asking questions and we don’t have any answers to give the children,” said Spencer.

This family said they won’t stop searching for the killer.

“We don’t want revenge. We just want answers, not to harm anybody or seek revenge. We just want to know what happened. We just need closure,” said Spencer.

The two best friends said their guardian angels are watching them from up high.

Norfolk Police are asking anyone with information on this case to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (1-888-562-5887). You could be eligible for a reward from the family and the Crime Line.