The murders of two children; More than one mother's heart can bear

By Christopher Sutter
Delphine Cherry with son Tyler and daughter Tracii
during somewhat happier times in 2010.
   In a daze, on a silent January night, Delphine Cherry stands, staring at a house across the street. Her fingers tightly gripping her dog’s leash, they both appear calm, still, though inside, Cherry is smitten with anger.
  Two weeks have passed since the murder of her son, Tyler. Her eyes transfixed, she watches as shadows move about the house.
 “They’re moving around like nothing ever happened,” she says softly. 
   For a number of reasons, she says, she believes she knows who killed her son. And she believes some of her neighbors are key to solving the question of who murdered her son. Delphine Cherry is no stranger to tragedy. Along with the death of her son, Cherry’s daughter Tyesa was also shot and killed, walking out of a movie theatre 20 years earlier.

Redeemed: A young man's journey from gangs to God

By Meredith Dobes
Anthony Orsini chats with mentor Ronald Gorny the man
 he credits with helping to set him on the right path.
Anthony Orsini had a new, fully loaded .32 caliber revolver in hand when he walked up to a rival gang member, put the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger. Then, the cylinder spun, he recalled recently, but nothing happened. Orsini is the self-admitted son of a member of the Latin Kings street gang and he got his own initiation into the gang at age 15. Then at age 16, he joined the Spanish Lords, he said. His nickname was Malo, Spanish for “bad.” His mentors were older gang members. His peers were in the gang, too.

Featured Video: There Are Children Here

A bullet in her brain; Daughter presses on

By Alesia Wright
            All she can remember is the ringing in her ears. It was Thursday, March 2, 2006, and just another normal day for the 18-year-old Ryann Brown, a senior at Simeon High School. “It was a regular day. I was trying to be slick. I drove my sister’s van to school and then I had brought some friends home so she could let me drop them off so I could keep the car,” Brown said, reflecting on that day. “She ended up going with me, we ended up going to my other friend’s house playing cards…we left out the house and I went and got in the car with my other friend.”

   Brown had always been a hard worker, very determined, and always very independent, according to her mother, Kimberly Johnson. She had been looking forward to graduation and prom and all the other perks and aspirations that comes with being a senior in high school. But for Brown all of this was cut short.
    “All I remember is ringing in my ears,” Brown said, now six years later, sitting next to her mother on the black leather couch in the living room of her Roseland home.

Standing cold over baby Jonylah

By John W. Fountain
      Cold. I felt only cold, standing over the tiny casket, bearing the body of Jonylah Watkins, who, four days shy of turning six months old, was murdered by a cold-hearted, cold-blooded killer.
     Cold I felt, standing inside Leak & Sons Funeral Home with the knowledge that the killer, in all likelihood, is a black man and that instead of lying in eternal sleep, Jonylah ought to be resting soundly at her home in a crib. Numb I stood, facing the truth thatwe as African Americans have become our own worst enemy. That we must hate ourselves. That we seem hell bent on self-destruction.

Featured Video II:

As I Walk:
Facing the Shadow of Death
In Chicago, it is not an unfamiliar tale. Life and murder in the city.
Each day thousands of Chicagoans in neighborhoods where bullets rain must face the streets.
Growing up in Chicago, RU journalism student Aaron Lee was not immune.
Here, he mixes his perspective with on-the-street reporting.
Gritty and real.

Mini Documentary:

Mothers of Murdered Sons:
 Tears, Memories & Support
A Chicago-area support group has risen from the travesty of homicide. 
Its aim is to help grieving mothers. 
There's only one way to become a member. 
To lose a son to murder.
It is a story that unfortunately too many mothers can share.
Reporter Daria Sokolova tells their story.

Reflections Podcast - Christopher Sutter

Murder Was The Case

Reflections Podcast - Meredith Dobes

Murder Was The Case

Unsolved murder cases grow long and cold

By Lamar Colyer III
       It was Wednesday at 1 p.m., and time for bible study at a South Side church. Those gathered inside smiled or joked and talked about football and apple pie at New Bethlehem No. 4 Missionary Baptist Church. Five months earlier, it was a different scene inside this medium-sized, redbrick church. It was more filled with grief than with laughter, more with pain than with joy over the murder of fellow member Robert Munn who was eulogized here.
Munn, 29, had been involved within his church since he was a little boy, a junior deacon for Rev. Louis Montgomery Sr., founder and senior pastor of New Bethlehem, located at 8850 S. Cottage Grove Ave. He had sung in the choir. He was a DJ and had become a soundman who ran the church’s PA system. And he even helped put together the church’s banquet facility in its basement better known as the Louis Montgomery room.
“We used to call him New Bethlehem. That’s how much he used to do,” said community activist Pamela Bosley.

Heeding the call to stop the violence

By Meredith Dobes
Phillip Jackson, executive director of Black Star Project,
announces a Stop the Violence Campaign at a press conference.
The silver, metallic clang of the miniature gong that follows the announcement of each name infiltrates the sterile silence of the room. It rattles through the eardrums of somber-faced residents. They know what is at stake and what has been lost. None of the children whose names are called out know of this recognition they are receiving. 
         They are not here in this room, and they are not here, there, or anywhere in this mortal world -- no longer at school, at home, at work or out with friends. They will never know, never hear this ringing for them inside this small room in a building in Bronzeville because their lives were taken from them, primarily as victims of gunfire, as victims of homicide.

Another daughter slain; Remembering Frances

By John W. Fountain
       This is another in an occasional, yearlong series that looks behind the number of murders in Chicago.

  Not Jonylah. Not Hadiya.
  Frances. Her name is Frances.
Frances Colon. She was 18. She was not just another nameless, faceless statistic in the incessant toll of Chicago murder victims whose blood pours over city’s streets like rain water.
         She was Dorothy Payton’s and Jose Colon’s daughter. Sister to Lizzie, Lorretta, Lalorrie, Selena, Dominique and Donice.  A jewel to four brothers.
  Student. Friend. A young woman with dreams.

Special project: Pulling up violence from its root

By Christopher Sutter
For 177 days, baby Jonylah Watkins lived before dying of a gunshot wound. Cradled in the lap of her father in the front seat of their gold minivan, pulled over to the side of street, a gunman, apparently targeting her father, approached the vehicle and opened fire. The Chicago Police Department suggested that Jonylah was unfortunately caught in the crossfire between her father, Johnathan Watkins, and the so-far unknown shooter. The bullet caused severe damage to the tiny girl’s internal organs, ultimately causing her death.
Jonylah is among hundreds of Chicago children in the last two decades who have been slain. In fact, over the last 20 years, Chicago has experienced the murders of over 360 small children, ages 10 and under, according to Chicago Police. Some were slain on the school bus, or while playing with toys on their porch, or even sitting inside of their homes.

Fostering healing and hope; A caseworker's passion

By Christopher Sutter
     The sun heated the cracked asphalt as two little girls, ages five and three, crossed the street. Holding the hands of their mother, Daphne and Lily, their real names changed in this story for their safety, glanced up at their guardian, their fingers still interlocked, as their mother was shot and killed by her boyfriend.
Months later, the girls, then living with their father and grandmother, visited Casa Central and began counseling with Mary Reynolds.

A mother's vow to a son; Gone but never forgotten

By Daria Sokolova
  A grief support group, Mothers of Murdered Sons was founded by Phyllis Duncan, whose son Dodavah Duncan was fatally shot in May 2006 in northwest suburban Elgin.
Also known as MOMS, the group seeks to provide grief counseling to those whose children were senselessly taken away by gun violence. The group holds their meetings on sthe econd Saturday of each month at the Bellwood public library, located at 600 Bohland Avenue.
             "We started here in western suburbs six years ago, addressing the crimes and the homicides here in a Proviso Township," says Duncan, founder of MOMS and women's community leadership counsel.

Living Through The Pain

Remembering slain siblings: 
A sister's undying love

The author was just 11 when her 16-year-old sister Tyesa was fatally shot outside a downtown Chicago movie theater. Days before this past Christmas, her baby brother Tyler was gunned down outside their south suburban home. Here she tells her family's story of loss and also coping and living through the pain. 

A niece stands at the tomb of her aunt Tyesa Cherry, slain at 16 before she was born.

By Tamika Howard
Special Contributor
Tamika Howard smiles with brother Tyler Cherry.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my older sister Tyesa. No matter how much she ever teased me, I always admired how strong and beautiful she was. She was so cool and had the goofiest laugh. And now there is also my little brother Tyler to miss. 
Nowadays, each morning, on my way to work, I look at Tyler’s high school graduation photo that I keep above my sun visor. His charming smile is unforgettable. I kiss the photo and I say my daily prayer: “Thank you, God, for who you are and everything that you do. Please give me the strength make it through the day and please protect me, my family, friends, and even my enemies.”  

One: That's the number that should matter most

By John W. Fountain
One. One bullet. One gun. One hot summer's night. One death. One city. One dream.
One funeral. One father's grief.
One community's scourge. One mother's tears. One child's fears. One. One last kiss. One pastor's plight. One hope. One fight.
This is the first in an occasional, yearlong series that looks intimately behind the numbers of murders in Chicago, which in 2012 totaled 506more than one a day, nearly 10 a week, about 42 a month.

Angry: When will the killing stop?

By John W. Fountain
            I am almost too angry to write. Angry about the killings. Angry at this city I love. Angry at my people—fellow African Americans—over our nonchalant acceptance of the senseless murder of our children in the streets like dogs, and our defeatist, kneejerk, shoulder hunching.
I am angry about the murder of another child—Hadiya Pendleton, 15—fatally shot this week while standing under a canopy in a South Side park.
   I am angry that we still are not up in arms. That we have not yet declared, “Enough is enough.” A state of emergency.