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Slain Cambridge girl’s brother can only ask why

Police say leads are encouraging

CAMBRIDGE — Kenyatta Holmes stood in somber silence Tuesday amid the growing makeshift memorial to his slain sister, finding some solace in the outpouring of condolences on the sidewalk where she died two nights before.

“All of us are having trouble realizing reality, that she’s actually gone, and we appreciate the people coming in the house, but it does get stressful because it makes you think about it more and more,” said Holmes, 18, who will graduate Thursday from Cambridge Rindge & ­Latin School.

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Holmes also had a message for the person or persons respon­sible for killing his sister, Charlene, in an apparent drive-by shooting.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

More than 300 people attended the candlelight vigil for Charlene Holmes.

“Why would you want to kill an innocent 16-year-old girl? She had a future, and she never caused trouble,” he said, standing in front of the Willow Street house where Charlene was cut down.

Thanilee Cotto-Felix, a 17-year-old Rindge senior, was also shot. She remains in critical condition at an undisclosed hospital, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.’s office said authorities are not ready to answer questions about the search for the killer or killers or a possible motive.

“We are encouraged by the leads we have. and we have ­every confidence we will solve this crime,’’ said the spokeswoman, Jessica Venezia ­Pastore.

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She said investigators are trying to determine the intended target of the gunfire.

In interviews Monday, neighbors said that Charlene Holmes was walking past the house with her sister when the shots were fired, mortally wounding Holmes.

But Pastore said Tuesday that Holmes and Cotto-Felix, were together and walked up to the house to have a conversation with someone on the porch when they were shot.

“Our investigation, at this point, indicates that they had stopped at the porch at the time of the shooting and were conversing with the residents,’’ ­Pastore said in a telephone inter­view. “They were known to the residents of that location.’’

Pastore declined to say what investigators found during their search Monday of a second-­floor unit of the multifamily building.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about Cotto-Felix, who was also scheduled to graduate on Thursday and had plans to attend Newbury College.

Julia Erdmann, a junior at Rindge, described herself as Cotto-Felix’s best friend. The two have known each other for four years, played on the school’s volleyball team together, and are virtually inseparable, Erdmann said.

“She’s funny, outgoing, and beautiful, and she loves being around friends,’’ Erdmann said by telephone. “She taught herself how to braid hair, and she did it for everybody.”

Residents of the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood, near Inman Square, have said the address has been the source of numerous quality-of-life problems. Police responded to the residence at least 10 times in the past two years, and some residents say they believe the fatal shooting was connected to the house and its occupants.

Addis Woldese, who lives on the third floor, said the house had once been quiet and calm.

“Now, there’s nothing but loud noise and the smell of marijuana in the building,” said the 40-year-old woman. “I have two children, and they live with their grandmother because I felt that it’s not safe around here anymore.”

In front of the house Tuesday, residents, students, and other mourners visited the makeshift memorial. Some stood in front of the dozens of candles, flowers, and posters and bowed their heads in ­silence. Others cried out loud.

Those who knew Charlene Holmes shared stories of her life.

“She was just a little girl, and she loved to dress up,” said ­Velda Francis, who lives in the neighborhood.

Francis, who said she watched Holmes grow up, helped other mourners relight dozens of candles.

Kenyatta Holmes said his sister was planning a career in fashion design. “That’s what she loved,” Holmes said.

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBallou. John Ellement can be reached at ­ellement@globe.com.

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