RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Rupert Haughton, 36, was a minister of music and well-known member of the gospel community, according to those who knew him.

His parents, Delroy and Diane Haughton, spoke with 8News on Monday, just days after their son was killed in Richmond’s first homicide of 2022.

“He sang in the church, loved the church. He praised God, and everything was right,” Diane Haughton said. “He was a light to the choir and everyone.”

Rupert Haughton, the youngest of nine, moved to Richmond in 2003. He attended Virginia Union University (VUU), and would go on to lead the gospel group R. Timothy Haughton and ReNewed. The singers had recently returned from travel, and had been nominated for various awards through the National & Independent Gospel Music Association’s 14th Annual Rhythm of Gospel Music Awards, as well as the Texas Gospel Music Excellence Awards.

“[To] have a loved one and, you know, life cut off so short, it’s very sad and it’s heartbreaking,” Delroy Haughton said. “It’s just something that hits you so hard, that you never though that things like this would happen so suddenly.”

Rupert Haughton’s parents said he grew up in New York City, where they live currently. But he fell in love with the south.

“He’s a very lovable person,” his father said. “He’s funny, and he liked to make somebody feel good. If you’re depressed, he was there to make you feel welcome.”

Delroy and Diane Haughton said that their son was born into the church. From a young age, he showed an affinity for music. Leading a gospel group was a childhood dream of his.

“He can’t be compared to nobody else,” his sister, Jeanette Hill, said. “He just would turn everything into laughter.”

Although Rupert Haughton did not have biological family in the greater Richmond area, his parents and sister told 8News that he made one, through his church and the community.

The night Rupert Haughton was killed, 8News spoke with the mother of one of the young adults who sang with him in the R. Timothy Haughton and ReNewed group.

“A real loss to the community, the people who know him, the people who had the opportunity to minister with him,” Michelle Penn said. “Just to be in his presence, you would just fall in love with Rupert.”

His parents said they are relying on “the grace of God” to get them through this difficult time, as they work on final arrangements for their youngest child.

“We’re heartbroken,” Delroy Haughton said. “We cry, we cry, we cry, we cry, we talk about it, and then, I go to my bed. I can’t sleep because it’s so shocking to me that that happened to him.”

Delroy and Diane Haughton said that they last saw their son during Thanksgiving. He insisted on baking a pie for everyone, another one of his passions. His sister said he loved to cook and watch people enjoy his food.

“Everywhere he go, people talk good of him,” his father said. “He’s such an inspiration to people.”