She hasn’t regained full use of her fingers, but Ainjil appeared amazingly strong and resilient behind her keyboard Saturday night at the Box Office.
Onstage in front of a packed room at the benefit show organized in her honor by the local music and arts community, the tattoo artist and member of local rock band Pigasus proved she’s recovering—physically and emotionally—from last month’s tragedy. On November 3, Ainjil was shot eight times in a home invasion that resulted in the death of her fiancé Jonathan “Caine” Lestelle and the loss of the couple’s unborn child. Ainjil’s estranged ex, William John Keck, has been arrested and faces charges of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter of an “unborn quick child” and battery with a deadly weapon resulting in bodily harm.
“The way the artistic community has come out of the woodwork to help somebody, whether they knew us or not, is overwhelming,” said Ainjil (who asked that her last name not be used) moments before her first performance since the incident. “I couldn’t be prouder to be living in this city.”
All proceeds from the Downtown venue’s December 20 A Tribute to Love concert, silent art auction and raffle will help allay funeral costs for Lestelle’s family, provide living expenses for Lestelle’s 3-year-old son and assist Ainjil with her medical bills and expenses. “I can’t express enough how much we appreciate it,” Ainjil said, sending out additional thanks to Victims of Violent Crimes for assisting with her medical costs. “It’s truly an amazing thing to see what people can do when they have love in their heart.”
Early in the night, emcee Dirk Vermin asked the crowd to bow its collective heads in memoriam. “You don’t have to pray; I don’t believe in that,” Vermin said. “But I do believe in helping people out.”
Then, Ainjil and Pigasus took the stage. “How awesome is it she’s up here playing piano?” singer Jesse Amoroso asked. “Tupac’s got nothing on her!” Local bands Ministry of Love, Give ’em Hell and The Vermin followed, and DJ Starr spun during set changes throughout the night.
Seeming more bewildered and frustrated than tearful at this stage when discussing the tragedy, Ainjil cited her band as a key to her recovery. “Next to a stress ball, [practicing with the band has] been helping me get my fingers moving, get my arms moving and getting out of the house,” she said. Ainjil explained that she’s had to modify the way she plays because of her injuries, though she’s adapted so successfully, it was impossible to notice in the audience.
Ainjil also expressed dismay at the way she and Lestelle have been portrayed since the shooting. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the news, and quite honestly, this story has gotten so twisted and mixed up,” she said. “I hate the idea of people portraying it as if we were adulterers. That wasn’t the case. We were long since broken up with our spouses and were working towards trying to get married ourselves. We were pregnant, and the baby wasn’t an accident by any means. That baby was planned; that baby was very much wanted. I can’t stomach the idea of people thinking that we were lying or anything like that.” Ainjil said she and Lestelle both were in the process of obtaining divorces from their respective exes, and attributed the delay to legal costs and paperwork.
Ainjil hopes to return to work at the Skin Factory in the new year.
To see how you can help Ainjil and Lestelle’s family, visit tributetolovebenefit.com.