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'Worst nightmare:' Family begs for info after son found shot to death in Port St. Lucie

WPEC West Palm Beach logo WPEC West Palm Beach 9/16/2020 Luli Ortiz

It was the morning of Aug. 26, Pam and Jim Highlands immediately knew something was wrong with their son, Charles, when they didn’t hear from him all day.

“He has never, ever, stayed out without letting us know. I don’t think he ever stayed out unless we knew ahead of time,” father Jim Highlands said. 

Almost 12 hours later, their nightmare came true.

Charles, also known as Charlie, was discovered shot dead inside his Toyota Corolla in a parking lot at the Sunshine Plaza on SW Del Rio Boulevard, east of Interstate 95.

“When that chaplain walked in the door, I knew it. I said, ‘Why did you bring the chaplain?’ I said, ‘You don’t bring the chaplain if someone is still alive’,” mother Pam Highlands said. "You know it’s horrible. No mother wants to go through it. It is literally the one thing that you always say I can get through anything, except that. It’s your worst nightmare come true.”

Charlie Highlands is remembered as a vibrant, athletic, loving son and brother.

The 18-year-old just graduated from Fort Pierce Central High School.

"By far, one of the funniest guys I ever personally knew,” said Cameron Paige, Charlie's friend. “He loved his family, especially his little brother. He loved his best friend. He was loved by everyone, so it genuinely terrifies everyone in Port St. Lucie because he’s the very last person we’d ever expect to be hurt by someone else. He left a mark on all of St. Lucie County. Everyone who he’s spoken to, or even looked at, loved him dearly.”

Charlie enjoyed playing sports all his life and had dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and working with his father.

“He just seemed to have so much going for him,” Jim Highlands said. “He just touched so many people over his short 18 years.”

The Highlands family is begging the person who knows what happened to come forward.

“I’m hoping that someone is going to feel bad about this, because somebody knows somebody who did it," Pam Highlands said. "People can’t keep quiet about things like this.”

Police believe the suspicious death is an isolated incident.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Richard Giaccone 772-807-4401 or Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers 800-273-TIPS (8477).


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