GOUVERNEUR — Over the last year, the length of time she’s worked at the Main Street Dunkin’ Donuts, Jeneca LaPlant became acquainted with Treyanna Summerville.
Some days, from the spring of last year until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Dunkin’ lobby a few months ago, Ms. Summerville would ask if the price of hash browns had been reduced as she held out a handful of change, Ms. LaPlant recalled.
“It took her a long time to get comfortable with me,” Ms. LaPlant said. “But once she did, she would usually wait until I would come to the counter during my shifts.”
During the school year before the lobby closed, Ms. LaPlant said Ms. Summerville would set up in a booth after school and stay until 10 or 11 p.m. Employees would often let her stay to work on homework while they worked on closing the kitchen and building.
Michaela Douglas, a shift manager, also described seeing Ms. Summerville, who was “always polite,” and pointed out the booth she frequented, along the building’s western wall.
“But when the lobby shut down, that’s when we stopped seeing her,” Ms. LaPlant said.
Ms. Summerville, who classmates have described as sweet and kind, bright and bubbly, was found dead June 22 inside her home at 135 Rowley St. in the village.
One person is in custody in connection to the homicide investigation, according to St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua and state police records, which list the arrested party as a 13-year-old girl. Isiah Samuels, Ms. Summerville’s older stepbrother, has identified the 13-year-old as his half sister. He has identified Lashanna Charlton, who is his stepmother and the biological mother of Ms. Summerville and the 13-year-old, as the adult who lived at 135 Rowley St. with the two girls.
The 13-year-old was arrested on the afternoon of June 22 at the state police station on Route 11 in Gouverneur and arraigned on a second-degree murder charge in the youth part of St. Lawrence County Family Court.
Just hours after community members learned of the death reported on Rowley Street, some 300 people gathered at the Gouverneur village park, in vigil for the 18-year-old so many used to see walking in her community. The DA’s office didn’t confirm Ms. Summerville as the deceased individual until the following morning.
“They didn’t even release her name, and we knew who that was,” Ms. LaPlant said.
On at least two separate occasions during her shifts, Ms. LaPlant said she recalls Gouverneur police officers arriving at Dunkin’ to speak to Ms. Summerville.
“It was one of those late nights we let her stay, and the police showed up, they were basically intimidating her,” Ms. LaPlant said of an incident she recalled happening last year. “I didn’t want her to feel left alone, so I stood right up in that lobby. I had my phone right out, thinking: ‘If I need to record something, I’m going to record it.’ That officer was so intimidated by me standing up there that he left.”
The male officer, who Ms. LaPlant could not identify, left the lobby and returned later, she said. Upon the officer’s return, Ms. LaPlant said Ms. Summerville walked out of the building, and she does not know whether Ms. Summerville left on her own or was accompanied somewhere by the officer.
On several occasions, Ms. LaPlant remembers the Dunkin’ line receiving phone calls from people who identified themselves as either Ms. Summerville’s mother or sister.
“Her mother would call the store and ask if Trey was there, and we’re not allowed to give out information like that,” Ms. LaPlant said, adding that at least once that she knows of, Ms. Summerville’s sister’s called and asked if “Trey would come home.”
Ms. LaPlant said she observed the sister come into the Dunkin’ once and engage in a sort of back-and-forth with Ms. Summerville. Ms. Summerville’s sister, Ms. LaPlant added, left the Dunkin’ for a short time and later returned. The sisters then left together.
Offering Ms. Summerville cups of ice when she requested them and donuts that would otherwise be thrown out, employees had empathy for her, Ms. LaPlant said. Ms. LaPlant even lent Ms. Summerville her own cell phone and charger to send messages and make phone calls. Who she was contacting, Ms. LaPlant doesn’t know for sure.
Describing Ms. Summerville’s hair as “beautifully natural,” Ms. LaPlant said at some point late last year she started wearing a hat.
“And after she put that beanie on, it was like her head did not come up,” she said.
Ms. LaPlant said she contacted the DA’s office last week to provide information about her observations over the last year and was told to call her local police department or state police. When she called state police on the afternoon of June 24, she offered a statement describing Ms. Summerville as being uncomfortable and asking for ice chips she could chew. Ms. LaPlant also told troopers how she noticed bald patches on Ms. Summerville’s head, which resulted in her wearing the beanie.
Ms. LaPlant said the state police officer asked her one question: “Did you ever see the mother physically abuse her?”
Ms. LaPlant replied “no,” but she said she wonders, “Is this just another comment that’s going to get thrown away in 30 days?”
The homicide investigation into Ms. Summerville’s death is ongoing, and Mr. Pasqua said investigators are looking into all aspects of the case.
“It’s not just Trey. We’re focusing on her now because there’s people who want to rally around her,” Ms. LaPlant said. “And why? My God, why? This is a big movement, and it’s not going to stop here. And it shouldn’t stop here.”