When Norman Lawrence Rich was a little boy, he was given the nickname “Semo” by his grandmother.
“I’ve never called him Norman - he’s always been Semo to me,” Semo’s younger sister, Sekeithia Tyler told Dateline. After years of not knowing, she finally asked where the nickname came from and their grandmother explained it was because Semo was “intuitive” and could “see more” of the world around him.
The name stuck. Semo and his seven siblings, raised by their mother in Washington, D.C., were close and took care of each other. Semo, being the oldest, stepped in as the provider and learned to work hard from a young age.
“He was like a dad to us,” Sekeithia told Dateline. “And he worked hard. Worked hard to provide for us, and then had his own family and worked hard to provide for them. He was just that type of person. He’d give the shirt off his back for someone in need.”
In March 1990, Semo was living in Washington, D.C. with his girlfriend, Sheila Brown, and their three children - all under the age of 11.
“He was devoted to those children,” Sekeithia said. “He had many jobs over the years, but the most important was the last one of being a stay-at-home dad while Sheila worked. Those kids were his life.”
Sekeithia told Dateline she remembers March 28, 1990 starting out as a typical day. But when she got to work for her 3 p.m. shift, she received news that changed everything.
Her brother Semo had been shot and killed inside his home.
“I went in and a co-worker said, 'Sekeithia, I'm sorry to hear what happened.' And I said, 'You are sorry to hear what?'” she explained to Dateline. “The co-worker said, 'I'm sorry to hear what happened to him.' And I said, 'You are sorry to hear what happened to who?' And then she looked at me and said, 'Sekeithia, Semo was killed this morning.' I said, 'What?' and I just went to the floor."
Sekeithia said she was in shock when she made her way to her brother’s house in the 500 block of M Street NE. It was now a crime scene.
Her family, including her mother, Helen Rich Frazier, and brother, William Thomas, were already there. William, who worked for the D.C. Department of Corrections at the time, told Dateline he had arrived on the scene before they knew the severity of the situation. Yellow police tape lined his brother’s house and William knew something was wrong but said he had to hear it for himself. So he approached one of the officers.
“They told me a man named Norman Rich had been fatally shot,” William said. “I knew what ‘fatally’ meant. He was gone.”
Once William found out that Semo had been shot and killed inside his home, he relayed the devastating news to their mother, who broke down.
The moment their mother found out about her oldest son’s death was captured in an image by a Washington Post photographer and featured on the Metro section's front page.
“There’s a lot of pain in that picture,” William added.
Sekeithia arrived a short time later and found her mother inside Semo's house.
“There were these bags under my mom’s eyes - they looked like welts - like she had been punched,” Sekeithia said of her mother when she arrived at the scene. “But the bags were from where she had been crying. I saw her and I just went to the floor again.”
According to the initial Metropolitan Police report, Semo’s girlfriend discovered his body in their bedroom at the house around 1 p.m. He had been shot multiple times.
At the scene, after collecting herself from the initial shock, Sekeithia asked her mother where Sheila and the children were. Helen, who had been battling cancer of the larynx, told her in a raspy voice that the children were at a neighbor's and Sheila was being questioned by police.
Sekeithia told Dateline that when Sheila returned, she told them her version of what happened that day. According to the family, Sheila said she it was about 8 a.m. on March 28 when there was a knock on the door. She said there were two men at the door, one she said she recognized as someone called Ducky, and the other she didn’t know, but that he had a brown paper bag underneath his arm. She said she announced to Semo that two men were at the door and she left the house to run errands and get her hair done.
Detective Ruben Sanchez-Serrano was the lead detective on Semo’s case for a few years before he retired. He told Dateline the case still haunts him to this day.
Sanchez, who collected a statement from Sheila Brown that day, told Dateline he remembered her being “very reluctant, she was combative," he said. But she offered to help them with composite drawings of the two men she said came to the house that day.
Sanchez told Dateline that many people were questioned and potential suspects emerged, but nothing led to an arrest.
Retired and now living in Florida, 79-year-old Sanchez continues to follow the case and keeps in close contact with Semo’s family and with the many detectives who have worked on the case throughout the years.
He would not comment on possible suspects or any updates on the case as it stands today, but told Dateline he believes the answer to cracking the case lies within the family.
“When they put out a reward for $25,000 and no one comes forward, it was just odd,” Sanchez said. “Especially in the 90s - that was a lot of money.”
But Sanchez, and Semo’s family, told Dateline they have faith in the newest detective on the case and believe he’s the one who will finally solve it.
Detective Michael Fulton, who took over Semo’s case in January 2021, told Dateline that it’s being actively investigated and is hopeful someone will come forward with a key piece of information that will ultimately solve the case and give closure to the family.
Detective Fulton would not comment on these theories or any possible leads in the investigation, but encouraged the public to call police with information.
Semo’s brother, William, told Dateline he’s encouraged by the work Detective Fulton is doing on his brother’s case and believes it will lead to justice.
“For years, a lot of things have not added up,” William said. “But Detective Fulton is going through everything with a fine tooth comb. And that’s what we need. It’s been 31 years - why are we still here? It makes no sense. My brother deserves justice.”
It’s been 31 years, and Sekeithia Tyler has hundreds of journals filled with notes about the case to show for it. She was only 26 years old when her brother was brutally murdered, but she took to the streets immediately to conduct her own investigation. And she hasn’t slowed down.
“People tell me to move on and live my life, but Semo is my life,” Sekeithia said. “God is using me and I believe I can be a blessing to others who are going through the same thing.”
Sekeithia said she still thinks about what her brother would be like if he were alive today. His children are now adults and have children of their own.
She often visits Semo’s gravesite which is next to their mother’s; Helen died of cancer a year after Semo was murdered.
“She had been sick a long time,” Sekeithia said. “But this is what killed our mother. My brother’s murder was the end for her. She never came back from it. And she never got to see him get justice.”
Sekeithia said that even though three decades have passed without answers, she believes they are close to getting the justice they have been fighting for.
“I’ve fought for 31 years to get justice for my brother and I’m not giving up,” Sekeithia told Dateline. “I still have hope.”
The Metropolitan Police Department is offering a $25,000 reward to anyone who provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of Semo’s killer. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Metropolitan Police Department’s Synchronized Operations Command Center (SOCC) at 202 727-9099.