Investigators still aren't releasing any details about the case; Sgt. Josh Doggrell said Saturday that several investigators have been working all weekend to develop leads and follow up on information they received through witness interviews and evidence at the crime scene.
Royal died of a single gunshot wound to the head sometime after 1:30 p.m. Friday, according to a preliminary report from the Calhoun County Coroner's Office.
Around 8 p.m. Saturday approximately 100 friends, family members and Constantine Homes residents gathered at Building No. 20, where Royal lived and died. They universally described her as a loving, happy person who worked hard.
Between prayers and tears, speeches and flickering candles, they remembered the sergeant cook for the Alabama National Guard — expressed disbelief at her death. Anger at the violent circumstances.
"Nobody expected this," said E. Steven Richardson, the first person to speak and pastor of 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church. "She had plans."
A member of the Army for seven years, Royal had planned to deploy to Afghanistan in June. At the vigil, current and retired Army members formed a circle around the flowers at her apartment doorstep. Through tears, they recited the U.S. Soldier's Creed.
"This is the best person you could ever meet," a woman dressed in Army fatigues said when the recitation was over, gesturing to a photograph of Royal tacked to the apartment building. The woman speaking was Vanesha Johnson, a longtime friend of Royal's, a classmate from Royal's days at Anniston High School — and the woman Royal enlisted with in February 2005.
Johnson's voice shook and grew louder as she talked about Royal's big heart, sense of duty. Her responsibility. It's unfair, Johnson said, that someone who worked for her country, who served overseas would be gunned down in her home in west Anniston.
"Y’all better wake up," Johnson shouted at the crowd around her. Her tone was acrimonious. She began to scream. "Get a job! Wash cars! Cut grass!"
She began to cry.
"Y’all should be ashamed. Are y’all serious? Are y’all serious?"
Several people gathered also were crying. Others murmured quietly or prayed with bowed heads.
A tall man in a red shirt, 21-year-old Miles Paul, spoke up.
He lives in Constantine; he'd known Royal since he was in sixth grade. She was "so deserving of life," he said.
"It's so worthless when she was doing so much," Paul said of her death.
There were murmurs of approval amongst the glowing candles. But then — suddenly, without warning — several people began to argue with each other. Paul and another man — he identified himself later as Tavairus Robinson, also a 21-year-old Constantine resident — were two of those shouting.
Their words were emotional, angry, hard to understand. They flung vague accusations out into the night about people on welfare, the black community in Anniston and crime in Constantine.
Those accusations turned into curse words; two men closed in on each other as if to start a physical fight. Others, including Johnson and later Ward 3 Councilman Benjamin Little, stepped up to mediate.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up," screamed Johnson. Within a few minutes, the crowd fell quiet again. People began to put out their candles and clear away from the building.
Johnson thanked people for coming. Words can't explain how special Royal was, she said.
"She was dearly loved," Johnson said. "We loved her to death."
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Csteele_star.