Who's Killing Our Children? Death At An Early Age Of The 454 Homicides In Philadelphia In 1992, 37 Victims Were Age 16 Or Under. Here Are Their Stories

Posted: February 16, 1993

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Stop. Listen to the fallen children:

Children like Raliek Springs, who starved to death because his mother bought drugs instead of baby formula.

Children like Diana Negron and Giovanni Rivera and James Sweat, innocent bystanders who got in the way of someone else's bullet.

Children like Stanley Zuber and Allison Johnson and David Smith, killed when friends toyed with guns that are all too available.

These children all died from violence last year in Philadelphia. How many of us even heard?

In the big city, we're used to people getting killed. It's sad. But that's the way it is.

Homicides happen every day. And most lives lost to violence get little attention in newspapers, on TV news - or in our hearts. Strangers' deaths are mere statistics. Only families and friends mourn - if even they do.

We should pay more attention when a child is killed. Given the times, it is naive to call all children innocents: Many are older, by all they have seen and done, than the children of generations past. But they are still children. And when a child is slain, it says something about us as a community. We are all the worse for it.

In 1992, there were 454 homicides in the city. Of those, 37 victims were kids aged 16 and younger.

Most were killed by guns. Some of the triggers were pulled by those who were kids themselves.

On average, three children were killed each month. The majority were black and male and poor.

Most were good kids.

Parents say that part of them died, too, when they buried their children.

Families have been turned upside-down and inside-out. If only they'd had a chance to say goodbye. Some family members had to be checked into hospitals to cope with their grief.

"I'm only one of hundreds or even thousands who have suffered like this," says Walter Ziolo Jr., whose youngest son was killed by a friend playing with a gun. "I'm a nobody. But my son was special to me."

Not all parents feel grief. Not all parents love their children. Some are angry enough to kill them.

Here are the stories of the murdered children of 1992, loved and unloved. It is not possible for each of us to care about all of them. Nor is it likely we will remember them all. But we should meet them and know our loss.




Picture the starving children of Somalia.

Now picture baby Raliek Springs of Germantown.

His legs and arms were like broomsticks. His skin was rough and stiff like parchment. His ribs jutted out. His muscles were shriveled. His brain had shrunk. He was catatonic.

He weighed only 6 pounds when he died Jan. 8. At four months, he should have weighed about three times as much.

Officially, Raliek died of starvation, dehydration and malnutrition, the coroner said. He really died of neglect. The coroner ruled it a homicide.

His mother told police she was shocked to find the youngest of her four children dead, according to court documents. But then, she admitted, she often fed Raliek only sugar water because she didn't have the money to buy baby formula.

She also hadn't tried to feed Raliek any solids in the days before his death. It was no use trying to feed him, anyway, she said. He always threw up any cereal she gave him.

"He went so long without food that he couldn't digest it," she told police.

She realized that Raliek needed medical attention, but she never took him to the doctor. She couldn't afford it, she said. But she did receive $700 a month in welfare. And she admitted buying cocaine, marijuana and beer.

The problem, she told police, was that she was just overwhelmed by life: poverty, the demands of motherhood, her drug and alcohol problems. Although two teen-age sisters lived with her, they were too busy with their own children to lend a hand. And Raliek's father couldn't help. He was in jail.

"I just don't really know what happened," she told police. "It's just that things wasn't going on right. I was using alcohol and drugs. I needed more help . . . I was doing too much - trying to take care of everybody, and I just didn't do for him what I did for everybody else."

The jury showed little pity. They found Lisa Springs, then 26, guilty of third-degree murder. The judge gave her the maximum sentence, 8 to 20 years.

Common Pleas Judge Marvin Halbert says he decided to give Springs such a stiff prison term largely because of a single statement by the coroner:

"The child endured a tremendous amount of pain, headaches and cramping."

As far as the judge was concerned, the life of baby Raliek "amounted to torture."


AGE: 15


Every time Walter Ziolo Jr. opens his wallet, there's his little Billy, beaming in uniform No. 6. Back then, Billy was a right wing for the Kensington Ramblers, a neighborhood soccer team.

Another flip in the billfold, and there's Billy again. And again. And again. Eight pictures in all. The pictures go all the way back to the beginning - when Billy was only days old, snuggled in his bassinet. And the pictures go all the way to just a few weeks before he died, at 15, when an acquaintance showing off a 9mm automatic shot him in the head. He died instantly.

Even a year after William Ziolo's death on Jan. 13, his father, 45, can't stop sharing his memories of Billy. His grief needs talk. His mom, Betty, 38, is just the opposite. She can barely speak about her boy without crying.

As the one-year anniversary of Billy's death approached recently, his mother checked herself into a mental health facility. She could no longer cope with her depression over their son's loss, says her former husband, Walter. He, too, has needed time in a mental hospital to deal with Billy's death, he says.

Much of their grief is bitter, over the loss of their son and over the court system. Patrick Miller, then 16, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The judge sentenced him to house arrest and seven years probation. The Ziolos had hoped for a third-degree murder conviction and many years in prison because they didn't think their son's death was an accident.

Billy grew up in Kensington and elsewhere in the Northeast, the youngest of three boys. His parents divorced when he was very young, and the boys shared their time with both parents.

"He was personality-plus," says his mom. "Lovely. Lovely. Lovely."

Billy played soccer as a boy. Later he played basketball, baseball and football. He also enjoyed dancing, roller skating, ice skating - and girls.

Tucked in the folds of Billy's coffin were notes from girls who had a thing for Billy. Each thought she was Billy's girl. Somehow, Billy managed in his short life to make 15 girls feel special.

Also showing up at his wake to say goodbye were more than 500 others: kids

from Frankford High, where he was a sophomore at his death; kids from his days at Lincoln High in the Northeast, which he had attended when he lived with his dad; coaches and teammates; kids from the neighborhood . . . and on and on.

Some of the mourners wore baseball caps made in Billy's honor. Stitched in black were his initials: B.Z.

"If you could see that wake," says his dad. "I knew he had a lot of friends, but nothing like this.

"It took to my heart, the turnout."


AGE: 14


It's an odd little shop, Sam's Place: part grocery store, part cafe, part hangout for the students and professionals who live in the area, around 45th and Pine, in the eclectic and idealistic heart of University City.

To Andre David McNatte, the neighborhood store meant something more. Over and over again he bragged to his younger brother: "I'm going to get Sam's."

But Sam's got him.

Shortly before midnight on Jan. 20, as the store was about to close, Andre and a buddy tried to stick up Sam's. But the night manager, weary after three holdups at the shop in a month, was ready.

Fearing that Andre had a gun in his pocket, Kevin Dales, 28, pulled out a .357 Magnum. Andre pulled his hand out of his pocket. And Dales shot him in the chest.

Andre staggered to the corner. He was pronounced dead minutes later, on Jan. 21. He was 14.

A knife was found on the sidewalk next to his body.

Dales was not arrested or charged. To the district attorney's office, Andre's death was a "justifiable homicide."

Andre was a troubled, troublesome youth. To neighbors, he was the community terrorist: a sullen, angry teen-ager who smashed car windows, set trash fires behind homes and blasted rap music out the window of his house at all hours. The month before he died, he was arrested on robbery and assault charges for trying to rip off a woman's handbag.

But to Annie McNatte, 66, the grandmother who was raising him and his two younger siblings, he was a good boy who stumbled onto the wrong path.

To her, the real Andre was the boy he used to be: the kid who won trophies for track and basketball, the romantic who drew hearts all over his room in honor of his girlfriend.

His sister, Salliyyah, 10, recalls how he helped her with her homework, and how he used to buy her soda and candy. And if she was scared at night, he'd let her sleep with him, she says.

"People say he was a bad boy," says Salliyyah. "But he really wasn't bad."

The grandmother believes Andre started getting wild once he left her watchful eye at Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia. She was a lunchroom monitor there, and he got good grades and perfect attendance awards.

But all that changed as soon as Andre hit ninth grade at Overbrook High. He started hanging out with the wrong crowd, she says. His grades started falling. He started skipping school.

On the night he died, his grandmother had smelled alcohol on him.

She believes Andre knew he was headed to his end.

"He told me a couple of times," says his grandmother, "he didn't think he was going to live much longer."


AGE: 12


As a school principal for many years, Mary Lou Diarenzo has discovered some universal truths:

Every child has promise.

Every child has dreams.

But not every child has a smile like Kenneth Osby had.

"He had a beautiful smile," says Diarenzo, the principal of Leidy Elementary School in West Philadelphia. "When he came into a room, the room lit up.

"That's what impressed me. That's what I remember."

Kenneth died Feb. 9 from a gunshot to the stomach. He was 12.

Kenneth was shot at the house of a 21-year-old acquaintance who had been showing off a .22-caliber handgun. At some point, Kenneth got mad. The young man told him to shut up, and pulled out the gun. It went off.

Derrick Williford was found guilty of third-degree murder. He was sentenced to 6 to 10 years in prison.

Kenneth, a fifth-grader at Leidy, was a handsome, enthusiastic boy who was well-liked by students and teachers, says the principal. He liked learning so much that he joined two academic clubs that met after school - the math club and the homework club.

His death was a blow to the school, she says.

"He was a part of our school family," she says.

"He was a child."


AGE: 4


Little Tiffany Riley never got over the beating her mother gave her when she was 2 months old.

The beating left her brain-damaged, blind, partially deaf and mentally handicapped.

She spent the rest of her life in an institution, confined to a wheelchair.

Nearly four years later, on Feb. 12, Tiffany died. The medical examiner blamed complications from the head trauma she suffered in the beating.

Her twin sister, Taffany, also got a beating that day, May 2, 1988. She suffered a fractured skull and a broken leg. She is now in foster care.

The twins' mother, Thomascil Riley, 26, pleaded guilty to murder and was given 20 years probation. She had already served four years for the beatings on aggravated assault charges.

In court four years ago on the assault charges, Riley admitted that she had beaten her daughters while "hung over" from a $200- to $300-a-day cocaine habit.

She testified that she beat the infants because they wouldn't stop crying.

Riley's attorney says she doesn't want to talk about her daughter.

Her mother was "a stranger" to Tiffany, says David Miller, director of Greenwich Services, a Germantown facility for the handicapped, where Tiffany lived.

Under state regulations, no one at the institution that became Tiffany's home is allowed to discuss her without the legal guardian's permission. The court never stripped the mother of her guardian status.

And so, aside from her care-givers, no one knows what kind of little girl Tiffany was. She died the way she lived: cared for by strangers, a stranger to the world.



Stanley Zuber could do a triple somersault and land upright on his feet, his arms outstretched victorious.

But no gymnastics stunt could get him out of the way of a gunshot fired by a 15-year-old who was showing off a pair of rifles to a bunch of younger boys.

Surgery failed to save Stanley. He died two minutes after midnight, on Feb. 21, of a gunshot wound in the neck. He was 12 years old, his mother's baby.

Gordon Randall, the youth who fired the fatal shot, was tried as a juvenile and convicted of third-degree murder. He is serving a four-year sentence.

Stanley's life had not been easy, says his mom, Alicia Holmes, 34. Until he was 5 years old, Stanley lived with his father, who abused him, she says. The father, Ricky Zuber, 37, was killed in 1990 when he fired on police officers after barricading himself in his house.

Stanley bore the scars of those early years with his father, and had to be patient with his mother's healing, too. She had been homeless and on drugs when the father won custody of Stanley, the youngest of four boys. Her other children were already in foster care. (The courts eventually allowed the eldest, now 19, to live with her again. But the twins, now 17, have been gone

from her a dozen years.)

She misses the childhoods she couldn't share with her sons. And now she aches knowing she won't see Stanley become a man.

"On the outside, I'm as hard as a rock," says his mother. "On the inside, I'm ready for a padded room with rubber wallpaper."

What drives her crazy is knowing that Stanley had overcome so much and had shown such promise at the end. During their early years together, he needed psychiatric care to cope with the time he had spent with his father, she says. He got into fights. He got lousy grades at school. He was held back a grade.

But Stanley had calmed down the last two years and was starting to bloom, says his mom. They moved to a nicer part of Nicetown. Stanley began noticing girls. And he started getting A's in school after he joined the gymnastics team at Pickett Middle School, where he was in seventh grade.

Winning ribbons for his somersaults and vaults gave Stanley confidence. He became a happy, friendly boy who liked to joke around.

And now he's gone.

The last time she saw her boy was in the coroner's office, on a video screen. The sight still haunts her.

"I believe in God, I do," says Stanley's mother. "For the life of me, I can't believe God had any good purpose for taking my son."


His eyelids were so droopy they nicknamed him "Sleep."

But Khalil Hawkins didn't spend much time slumbering. Often, he'd stay out all night with his buddies, says his aunt, Alicia Clark, 23.

Khalil liked to party and he liked girls, says his brother, Nathan Bundy, 24. By the time he died at 15, Khalil had fathered two children with different women, says his brother.

Khalil was raised by a grandmother in North Philadelphia, but spent a lot of time hanging out with his brother. Khalil had dropped out of school and had a lot of free time.

He did not enjoy playing sports, but the brothers spent hours each day lifting weights as a tape by the rapper Ice Cube blasted in the background.

Even though he was only 5 feet tall, the weightlifting made Khalil beefy and strong. His brother figures he weighed over 200 pounds.

His physique made him tough. There was no messing with Khalil, says his aunt.

"He was one to get into trouble," she says. "If somebody put their hands on him, he'd fight."

Khalil had an arrest record. Family members say they do not know for what, and authorities would not release any details.

Relatives also don't know much about his death. All the police know is that on the afternoon of Feb. 22, two men chased Khalil down the street. He was dead when police arrived. He had been shot in the back of the head. No arrests have been made.

Police believe Khalil may have been dealing drugs. His brother says Khalil wasn't a user. But he says he doesn't know if Khalil was dealing.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, he says.

"We should just let him rest."


AGE: 16


In a letter he sent from St. Gabriel's Hall, a home for juvenile delinquents, Kareem Dandy told his grandmother she would be proud of all the changes he was making.

But on March 23, three months after his release, it was clear that Kareem, 16, had not given up all his bad ways.

He tried to rob a 15-year-old of his sunglasses.

Kareem had a toy gun.

The other youth had a real .32-caliber revolver.

Police found Kareem lying dead on the street with bullet wounds in his back, chest and arm. The district attorney's office decided not to press charges against the other youth, Donald Harrison.

The foiled hold-up was not Kareem's first crime. Marian Dandy, 47, says she doesn't know why a juvenile court judge sent her grandson to St. Gabriel's for a year. All she knows is that it seemed to do good things for him.

There, the high school dropout went to class again. He won some trophies for basketball. And when he got out, he promptly re-enrolled at Audenried High in South Philadelphia, where he joined his 15-year-old sister, Natia, in 10th grade.

The oldest of four children, Kareem was raised in South Philadelphia by his grandmother. He called her "Mom."

That's almost what she misses most about Kareem: his singsong way of saying ''Ohhhhhhh, Mom" when he got into trouble or she tried to scold him.

"He'd give me a hug and this kiss with his big wet lips," says his grandmother. "He was a loving grandson who I dearly miss."



Just about anything Kevin Heath wanted, he got.

He wanted Nike sneakers, his mother bought him Nike sneakers. He wanted Timberland boots, his mother bought him Timberland boots. He wanted a 12-speed bike, his aunt bought him a 12-speed bike.

His mother, Arlene Heath, 27, says she worked hard to give Kevin and his three younger sisters just about anything they wanted. And if she couldn't afford something, generous relatives were always ready to give.

That's why she can't believe that her 12-year-old son was killed trying to

break into a second-floor apartment with his buddies. He died March 26 after staggering to the street, a .25-caliber bullet in his chest. No charges were filed against Bruce Shockey, 40, the tenant who shot him.

"He had too much to try to steal something," says Kevin's mom.

But the Little Leaguer was mischievous, she says. And rebellious. And hanging out with a tough older crowd in their North Philadelphia neighborhood. Many a night his mother had to retrieve him from the police station because he was caught joyriding in the back of a stolen car.

With a muscular physique from lifting weights and boxing at a neighborhood gym, Kevin looked older than his years. He couldn't wait to grow up.

"He wasn't a bad child," says his mother. "He was ready to be a teen- ager. He wanted to hang with the big boys."

Nothing his mother did could stop Kevin. She took him to guidance counselors at Vaux Middle School in North Philadelphia, where he was in sixth grade. She enrolled him in a special city program for troubled youth. She had him in therapy.

When these efforts failed, she tried bribes. Guilt. Punishment. Prayers. And always, tears.

"I cried. I cried and cried and cried," she says.

Sometimes, Kevin would cry with her. He'd tell her he loved her and told her not to worry. And then he'd go and break her heart again.

"I just didn't want him to end up dead somewhere," says his mother.


AGE: 13


It started out as a friendly game of hoops. But by the end, members of the two teams were arguing over, of all things, a baseball cap.

Later that day, March 29, the teams ran into each other again. Hating to see his pals fight, Howard Broadnax Jr. spoke up.

"Come on you guys. This is stupid." he said, according to court testimony. "This is dumb. We're all friends."

Moments later, a .25-caliber gun was fired into the crowd. And the peacemaker was killed by a bullet to the head. He was 13.

The shooter, Keith Kinard, then 17, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 1 to 2 years in jail, with 3 years probation on a weapons charge.

A student at Rhodes Miiddle School, Howard grew up in nearby Strawberry Mansion, the middle of three boys. Their mother died in childbirth when Howard was a preschooler, so the boys were raised by a grandmother and their father.

Howard had been in Little League, and later played basketball and football on neighborhood teams, says his dad, Howard Broadnax Sr., 32. He was also active in a Baptist church program aimed at keeping young people out of trouble.

His nickname was "Sugar." Most folks thought it was because he was so sweet, says his dad. But the nickname was coined when he was a baby and had fallen asleep in the sugar bowl.

Howard never did lose his sweet tooth. He would devour everything in sight. By the time he reached puberty, he was 5-foot-8 and weighed more than 200 pounds.

"He ate everything," says his dad. "McDonald's, dandy, cookies, french fries, milkshades. There wasn't too much he would pass up."

Often Howard's appetite would head him to the kitchen to whip up just a little something. Next thing the family knew, he had a meal ready, from chicken and mashed potatoes to a home-baked cake. He always shared.

"He was a good kid," says his dad.



She had gone back to her old neighborhood just to say goodbye.

Days before, her family had moved to a nicer part of Kensington. It was a modest dream house, but the family would at last be free from the barroom brawls and drug wars that had haunted them at the old place.

"Peace at last, mom," Diana Ortiz Negron told her mother with a hug and a kiss on their first night in the new home.

But peace for Diana's family did not last. On June 20, Diana was sitting on an ex-neighbor's porch when corner dope peddlers got into a gun battle with either a dissatisfied customer or a rival, police say. A stray .45-caliber bullet smashed into Diana's right cheek. She died almost instantly. No arrests have been made.

Diana, 15, was a loving, lovable girl who was perpetually cheerful and outgoing, says her mother, Gabriella Negron, 32. Nothing got Diana down. She had that rare gift of always seeing the silver lining.

Even growing up poor didn't bother her. She didn't have to buy the latest outfit to impress her eighth-grade classmates at the Roberto Clemente Middle school near Hunting Park. The aspiring fashion designer sewed many of her own clothes.

"She could take any rag and make something nice out of it," says her mom. ''She'd take curtains and stuff and make a dress."

Diana often told her family that she didn't need money because she had other riches: her folks, her older brother and her two younger sisters. She loved them dearly, and told them so often.

"We are the richest people on earth because we have all the love in the world," Diana reminded her family just days before she died.

Diana always said gushy, cornball stuff like that, and meant every word, says her mom. She also had a wacky sense of humor that was contagious. Her girlfriends called her "Tylenol" because, as one of her pals put it: "She's the Tylenol who cures your pain."

Without her, the pain is intense. Diana's mother still can't talk about her daughter without crying. And Diana's brother, Juan, 16, is devastated, the mom says.

The siblings, only a year apart, were very close, she says. After Diana died, Juan became very quiet and withdrawn, she says. He didn't want the family to talk about the murder.

But just before Thanksgiving, Juan went into a physical rage, says his mother. He told his family that he could hear Diana's voice and see her in the room.

"She can't be dead! She can't be dead!" he shouted.

Juan has been committed to a hospital psychiatric ward, his mother says. Psychiatrists there have told the mother that he is suffering from "deep grieving depression." They expect his recovery to take years.

The drug dealers "tore my family apart," says Diana's mom. "I don't have my daughter. I'm losing my son."



The police summoned to the North Philadelphia apartment found the 4-month- old girl unconscious.

Attempts to save her were futile. Two days later, on June 23, Mikeya Rawls was dead. Hospital physicians said she died of shaken baby syndrome.

Police arrested Derrick Lewis, also known as Derrick Rawls, then 17, at the Youth Study Center, where he was being held for another crime.

Lewis, the infant's father, was charged with murder, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter and related charges.

The judge released him to his parents' custody on $5,000 bail.

Mikeya's mother, Nikita Jennings, 18, says she is not angry at the man accused of killing her baby. In fact, she is living with him and his parents in West Philadelphia.

"I'm all confused," she says. "It wasn't really him. Police have the wrong guy."

She doesn't believe her boyfriend is guilty. She didn't shake Mikeya to death, either, she says. She's at a loss to explain who did.

She remembers her daughter as a happy, sweet child. The child's father loved the infant, too, she says. He would often get up in the middle of the night to feed her, she says.

"He was OK with being a dad," she says.

The mother speaks in cheerful tones. If she feels any sadness for her daughter, she doesn't let on.


AGE: 5


It was a gorgeous summer day and little Jeremiah Cobb was sitting on a giant flower pot, playing with a friend.

Suddenly, a 1978 Chrysler LeBaron went zooming down the narrow North Philadelphia block, witnesses said. As neighbors shouted for him to slow down, the driver lost control, jumped the curb and struck Jeremiah and his friend.

The driver then fled, witnesses testified, dragging the flower pot under his car.

Jeremiah died that day, June 30. The other youngster was seriously injured. Both boys were 5.

Demetrios Scales, then 22, awaits trial for third-degree murder, aggravated assault, leaving the scene of an accident and other charges. Bail was set at $5,000.

Jeremiah was an obedient, cheerful youngster who liked to play with toy cars and water guns, says his mother, Amanda Pralour, 23.

She loved her son, but didn't know him very well, she says. Jeremiah and his twin brother, Joshua, were raised by their great-aunt, Vernell Carlos, 73. The twins' older brother and sister are in foster care, Pralour says. She declined to say why her children were being raised by others.

The twins had been with her since they were infants, says the great-aunt. Identical twins, they hated to dress alike. They were quite different, she says.

Jeremiah was the bold one. He learned how to ride a two-wheel bicycle after just a few days with training wheels.

"He could ride with the big boys," says his great-aunt.

Jeremiah was also very smart, she says. He knew his phone number and his address. And he taught his brother how to spell his name, she says.

"He was always teaching his brother this or that," says the great-aunt.

Joshua still doesn't like to visit the playground where he and Jeremiah used to play. But the excitement of kindergarten has helped ease his sadness, she says.

To her, though, the accident is still vivid.

"Lord," says the great-aunt. "That was the hurtest thing that ever happened to me."


The boy was new in school. He was wandering the halls, lost but determined.

Finally, he ran into Christine Black, then a guidance counselor at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Hunting Park.

"Are you the lady that gives out jobs?" he asked.

No, she answered, but come into my office anyway.

And the friendship began.

Giovanni Rivera, 13, was not one to take no for an answer, she soon realized. Before she knew it, the counselor was helping him get his Social Security card and his working papers, and was trying to get him into a city job program for teens.

There was something special about Giovanni that made her want to go through all the extra effort, she says. He asked smart questions and instantly absorbed the answers. He was spirited, savvy, ambitious and very, very charming.

"He talked to you with his eyes," she says. "His eyes were jet black, but they were real bright eyes, feisty eyes, always attentive."

Giovanni didn't seem to make many buddies in school. He had enrolled in seventh grade late in the school year, around mid-May, so student cliques were already formed, says the counselor. He was also a bit of a loner, a bit different from other kids.

His family had moved to Hunting Park from Massachusetts. The counselor sensed that the family didn't plan to stay long in the city. The family has since left for parts unknown, police say. They could not be reached to talk about Giovanni.

Giovanni's mother witnessed her son's murder, she told reporters at the time. She was standing only a few feet away from her son when a man arguing with someone in a car suddenly pulled out a gun, aimed at the car and fired.

Giovanni was shot in the head and died hours later, on July 6. He was an innocent bystander. No arrests have been made.

"Giovanni was very much into talking about the future - about starting school in September, about going to high school," says the counselor.

"He had a future, no question. This was a child with potential. This kid could have really gone places."



Firefighters removed three body bags from the five-alarm fire in the Warrington Apartments on the edge of University City.

One contained the body of Latasha Smith's mother, Marie, 31. Another held Latasha's.

Latasha was 5 when she died July 10 in a predawn fire set by an arsonist angry at some of his neighbors. The Smith family lived directly above the arsonist's third-floor apartment, where the blaze was set.

Latasha was found on her bedroom floor near a window. She died from smoke inhalation and burns.

Nathan Chatmon, 64, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three life sentences for the deaths. He was also sentenced to 10 to 20 years for each of the eight charges of aggravated assault arising from injuries sustained in the fire. He got an additional 10 to 20 year for arson.

He is serving his prison term in a mental institution. He had been committed to a mental hospital once before, in the 1970s, for killing a man in a bar.

Nothing could be readily learned about Latasha. She was too young to be enrolled in kindergarten. Her father, Roy Smith, has moved and police do not know his whereabouts. If he is living in the Philadelphia area, he does not have a listed phone number.




Little Jimmyll Hallums was crying in the closet when his mother found him.

He had obviously been beaten, police say. He had bruises and bite marks on his head and legs. He had cigarette burns on his back. He was having trouble breathing.

His mother rushed him from their North Philadelphia home to the hospital. X-rays showed fractures in his head and leg.

He was placed on life support. Three days later, on July 31, Jimmyll was dead. He was 19 months old.

Police say that the mother's boyfriend, Terrell Fuller, then 18, was babysitting for the toddler when he beat Jimmyll with his hands. Fuller was charged with murder.

The child's mother, Crystal Graham, 21, has since moved. Her boyfriend's family has not heard from her in months. She has no phone listing in Philadelphia.


AGE: 3


It was hot and humid that summer day. Little Calvin Stanley kept taking off his jacket on the trolley ride home. His foster mother kept putting it back on.

By the time they got home, "Mom Mom" was fuming.

That night, she beat the 3-year-old so badly that she had to carry him to bed, she admitted to police. Then she undressed him and she said their prayers.

The next morning, Aug. 8, she found him dead.

It was a murder that shocked the city with its grisly details: The foster mother hid the corpse in the basement among her Christmas decorations, then called police to report that he was missing. Police scoured the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood for two days.

Fearing discovery, the foster mother later told police, she took a kitchen knife and hacksaw to the body. She then bagged the parts and stuffed them in a basement freezer. What didn't fit was packed into a green suitcase.

Calvin was discovered by police and officially declared dead Aug. 11. The foster mother, Etta Lou Mumford, then 47, is being held without bail for murder, abuse of corpse and other charges.

An autopsy showed that Calvin had been slammed so hard that his spine snapped away from his pelvis. He slowly bled to death.

Little is known about Calvin. In the fall of 1990, while under the care of his natural mother, he and his older brother, Aquill, were found by police alone in an abandoned house. (Their mother, Helena Stanley, 31 when Calvin died, told reporters that she was a recovering drug addict who had been trying to piece her life together to get her sons back.)

The brothers were shuffled between foster homes. A private social service agency placed the boys with Mumford in February 1991.

Neighbors described Calvin as a sweet boy who was not allowed to leave the fenced front yard to play with other children on the block. He stuttered, and seemed shy.

After Calvin was found, some neighbors admitted that they had seen the foster mother spank him forcefully and had often heard children wailing in the house.

They thought nothing of it. Until it was too late.


James Melvin Cook dreamed big. He was big.

He was so big that he was nicknamed "Manny Strong," says his sister, Darice Cook, 21. It was nothing for him to pick her up in the crook of an arm and swing her around.

He was a bashful kid when he was younger, but by 15, James was bashful no more. He blasted his rap music. He chased girls. And he lusted after flashy cars.

"His dream car was a Beamer," says his sister, referring to a BMW. "He always said when he grew up he'd get that car, put a boomer system in it and kit it up."

His sister adored James. He was always quick to do a favor. And he often played with her two children.

Still, she admits that her brother was not exactly an angel. And he had an arrest record, earned when he stole a bike "because he was bored," she says. A juvenile court judge sent him to De La Salle in Towne, a Catholic center in Center City that provides education, counseling and social services for troubled boys. He was about to start ninth grade.

"James was not a bad kid. He was not a dumb kid," says his mother, Alezo Cook, 35. "He just liked to fool around."

James had such a good time joking around and having fun it was hard for him to be serious, she says.

He was serious about baseball, however. He won trophies playing shortstop on teams in his Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood, his sister says.

He was also serious about playing craps. He gambled with money he made after school and on weekends putting up drywall and stucco. He also gambled with the Social Security checks he got after his dad died in a 1985 accident, says his sister.

James was good at craps. On Sept. 1, he won of $155 from another gambler, police say. The guy wanted his money back. When James refused, the loser went home, police say, got a handgun and fired a single bullet into James' chest.

James died in her arms on the way to the hospital, his sister says.

Police arrested Larry Nettles, 23. The murder charge was dropped when the memory of the key witness became hazy on the stand, according to the district attorney's office.

"I miss how we would argue all the time, you know, brother and sister," she says. "I miss how he used to blast his music. I miss . . . him."


He was 3 years old, but weighed only as much as an infant.

An autopsy showed that Andre Jackson had not been fed in a long time. He weighed only 22 pounds.

The medical examiner testified in court that Andre died Sept. 2 of starvation, dehydration and malnourishment. He had been neglected to death.

Police arrested his mother, Elva Jackson, then 36. She awaits trial on charges of third-degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.

Andre lived on a West Philadelphia block filled with abandoned houses. He had few neighbors who could talk about his life.



There was a big party that night. Everyone wanted to go.

But Tony's cousin needed someone to watch his infant daughter. Tony volunteered to babysit.

"You all go ahead," he said to his cousin and friends. That was the last time any of them saw him alive.

Tereen "Tony" Hart, 16, was found dead Sept. 13 inside his cousin's Southwest Philadelphia home. He had been shot three times in the back of the head with a .25-caliber automatic. The baby was unharmed.

Police believe Tony was the victim of mistaken identity. They think the killers were really after his cousin, who owed some people money. No one has been arrested.

It was just like Tony to babysit so that others could enjoy themselves, says his mom, Sandra Hart Jervay, 35.

Sweet, generous, easygoing. That was Tony. He had a smile so warm that it could set a room aglow, she says.

Everyone who met Tony liked him. Teachers often secretly admitted that he was their favorite, says his mother.

And girls - well, they just adored his manners, his handsome looks, his athletic build . . . and his legs. ("Everybody liked his legs," says his mom.) Girls called Tony from as far away as North Carolina, where he had once vacationed.

Tony enjoyed school. He talked about going to college in Florida, and then becoming a lawyer, says his mother. But he was so popular at University City High, where he attended ninth and 10th grades, that he had a hard time being a serious student.

His grades improved after he transferred to Northeast High for 11th grade, but he missed his buddies. He was looking forward to going back to University City High in a few days to begin his senior year.

Tony's mother never worried about what he was doing or who he was hanging out with. He was a good kid, and he had good people for friends, she says. She had an open-door policy for his friends: They could hang out in the Hart's Mantua home anytime. And they were welcome on family vacations.

Tony had a sister and three brothers. Even though he was the oldest son, his mother thought of him as her baby.

"He was my heart," she says.

"I was lucky to have him," his mom adds. "It was almost an everyday thing, us saying 'I love you.' I just wish I had been able to say goodbye."


He could have picked any photograph from his scrapbook to give the newspaper in memory of his nephew.

The picture he chose was the last one ever taken. It shows James Sweat in a coffin.

"That's the reality," says his uncle, Schubert Sweat, 33. "That's the bottom line."

James was killed when a man beaten by a group of teen-agers came back for revenge, police say. Three shots were fired into a crowd gathered at a house party, say police. One of the bullets struck James in the neck. He died three days later, on Sept. 15.

James, 15, had not been involved in the earlier fight, police say. He was an innocent bystander.

Sweat lives with his sister in Southwest Philadelphia and had helped raise James, her only child. James' parents were separated, and though James often saw his father on weekends and during summer vacation, the uncle considered

himself the youth's male role model - and his friend.

"When he had problems, he could come to me and and talk to me," says the uncle. "I was his buddy. But he looked up to me."

Much of the uncle's interest in James' upbringing stemmed from his own lonely childhood, he says.

"I grew up with a bad life, but I wanted to spare him the agony," says the uncle. "I was raised without a father, and I didn't want him to grow up the same way."

James was a shy, good-looking kid who was unfailingly polite, says his uncle. He enjoyed school and got good grades at John Bartram High in Southwest Philadelphia, where he was a 10th-grader.

James planned to try out for the varsity basketball team and dreamed of playing professional ball. He was already 6-foot-2.

The two played basketball together, and the uncle often took James to Sixers games at the Spectrum.

The uncle enjoyed his nephew's company, but he also had an ulterior motive for keeping James close to him: He didn't want James to fall in with any of the bad crowds in the neighborhood. Although James never had a run-in with the police, even a good kid has a hard time keeping out of trouble these days, he says.

Now, the uncle feels his efforts were in vain. It was almost as if James was too good to survive in this world, he says.

"He was too nice and he was too kind-hearted. I had this feeling that something would happen to him," says the uncle. "It seems bad things always happen to the innocent ones."

"No matter how much positive stuff you tell 'em," he adds, "it still can't help if they're in the wrong place."


As long as there were catfish in the Schulykill, Lance Taylor was ready to reel them in.

There were few things in life the 16-year-old loved more than fishing, says his older brother, Louis Taylor, 17. He subscribed to Field & Stream magazine, and he watched every PBS special - like National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau - that had anything to do with fish. His dream was to go deep sea fishing one day.

Lance usually fished behind the Breyer's ice cream factory in Southwest Philadelphia. Often, he would take along a buddy who didn't know the pleasures of hooking a worm or watching a fish get fooled by a chunk of raw liver. Even with the skyline as a backdrop, the fishing spot was a rustic escape from the city.

It was not that Lance was a recluse. Far from it, says his brother. He was outgoing and popular, and his rugged good looks helped him land many dates.

Lance was a clean-cut kid, says his brother. He chose good people for friends. He didn't do drugs. And although he wasn't as studious as his older brother, the 10th-grader got decent grades at University City High and had ambitions for college.

Lance had managed to shield himself from the dangers that lure so many inner-city teens. He didn't know that the greatest danger he faced was within his own home: his mother.

Lance and his three siblings were raised in West Philadelphia by their grandparents, their legal guardians. Their mother spent most of their childhood living elsewhere, says the brother. Recently, though, she had come back into their lives and was staying with the family.

In the predawn hours of Sept. 26, she entered her sons' bedroom. She was mad at Lance and she was drunk, says Louis, who was a witness.

She was muttering "mostly gibberish," he says. But the .25-automatic she was waving around made the brothers take her seriously.

Suddenly the gun went off, and Lance was fatally shot in the head.

Gilda Taylor, then 33, is being held on $100,000 bail. She was charged with murder.

Louis thinks his mother didn't mean to shoot Lance, but only wanted to scare him.

"She was intoxicated, so her judgment was impaired," he says. "I don't condemn her or condone her, either. It was stupid."

Since her arrest, Louis has spoken to her in jail by phone.

"She's sorry," he says.

He believes her. But apologies and remorse can't bring his brother back.


His mother was napping. Little Steve White wanted to come upstairs to visit.

Suddenly, the mother heard the boy sobbing, she later recalls. There goes her boyfriend hitting their son again, she thought at the time.

"What is he hitting him for?" she wondered.

The crying then stopped abruptly.

Oh, she thought, relieved. "He's not hurt because he stopped crying."

But really, she later learned to her horror, Steve had stopped crying

because he was dead.

When she first saw her 3-year-old lying on the living room sofa, she hoped he was just unconscious. In a panic, she says, she tried to give him mouth-to- mouth rescusitation.

She didn't know the right way to do it, she says. But she had to do something.

"I just wanted him to breathe."

But it was too late. Steve died Oct. 11 from a beating to the head, says the medical examiner.

His father, Reginald Taylor, then 34, was charged with murder. He is out on $50,000 bail. The mother says she has severed all contact with him.

Remorseful, the father told a judge he beat and shook Steve to teach him not to lie.

It was not the first time the father had tried to discipline the child using physical force, says the mother, Eugenia White, 35, of South Philadelphia.

She used to admonish the father, she says. To her, Steve was only a little boy - he didn't really need disciplining. And the kind of discipline the father meted out was too stern, she told him.

"It didn't seem like a loving kind of discipline," she says.

Steve, her second child, was a cheerful boy who liked the Ninja Turtles and enjoyed trips to the Please Touch Museum with his mom.

What she remembers most about her son was what a little daredevil he was. He had an indoor jungle gym that he clambored all over. And whenever he jumped aboard his Big Wheel bike, he'd pedal around at breakneck speed, grinning all the while.

"I called him 'Evel Knievel,' " she says. "He was not scared of anything.

"Except his father," she adds, crying. "I didn't realize how deep it was."


He used to hang on the corner, peddling drugs.

But then he discovered Islam.

Suddenly, the kid who did two years at a home for juvenile delinquents was reciting passages from the Koran, says his sister. Instead of staying out all night, he became a homebody. And the eighth-grade dropout was looking forward to going back to school. He wanted to attend Sister Clara Muhammad, a Moslem school in West Philadelphia.

"He said he was tired of the life he was leading out on the street all the time," says his older sister, Katrina Floyd, 21. "He calmed down with the Islam."

But just as Hasan Dawud Floyd, 16, was getting his life together, he was killed.

Hasan was fatally shot in the head Nov. 2 after he had an argument with

Tonia Williams, then 23, police say. She is being held without bail on murder and weapons charges.

Hasan and his three siblings were raised by their grandmother in South Philadelphia. His friends called him "Rubber" or "Rubbernose" because his nose was so big it looked fake, says his sister.

Even though Hasan had been a Moslem for about a year, he still chased girls and he still loved to go to parties and dance, she says.

Hasan also didn't lose his taste for designer clothes.

"That was his thing - Sergio sweatsuits and sneaks," says his sister. ''He always wore classic Reeboks."

Hasan's latest favorite outfit was a white and blue Sergio sweatsuit, white and blue classic Reeboks - and a kufi, a Muslim skullcap. He was buried in that outfit.

Although Hasan obviously avoided some of the faith's stricter practices, his sister did not doubt his sincerity. He was changing on the inside, she says.

Two weeks before he died, she noticed a glow about his face, she says.

"Hasan, your face is shining," she told him. Then she pulled out a camera to take some pictures of him because "You never know what will happen."

Hasan had the same sort of glow when she went to identify him at the


"He had a smile. He was happy," says his sister. "He looked relieved, like he was tired and now he wasn't. He was just resting in peace."



He had wanted that sheepskin jacket with all his heart.

It ended up costing him his life.

Darnell Cherry, 15, was fatally shot in the back Nov. 10 after he handed over his cherished jacket to a robber, police say. No one has been arrested.

He was killed just down the block from his Southwest Philadelphia home. One of his older brothers witnessed the killing, says his mother, Linda Cherry, 36.

Darnell's girlfriend told reporters at the time that the hooded leather jacket with the fur collar was worth $700. Police described the jacket the same way. His mom now says that the tan jacket had no hood, and that it was a $250 cowhide jacket with a lambswool lining - not sheepskin.

The jacket was a gift from his two brothers and his cousins, says his mother. Darnell had only been wearing it for about three weeks.

Tall and slim, Darnell was a sharp dresser. He was up on all the fashions, but sneakers were his thing. Other than the jacket, all he ever wanted were the latest sneakers to wear to school, says his mom. He had just started ninth grade at Bartram High in Southwest Philadelphia.

Her son was "a Nintendo freak" and a roller skate fanatic who was well- known and well-liked around the neighborhood, she says.

"He was a people person," says his mother. "He had a gift of gabbing. I always told him he should be a politician."

Although she remembers her son as an easy-going teen-ager, Darnell had run astray. His mother declined to explain why her son had an arrest record, but she blamed it on her poor, drug-ridden neighborhood. As a single working mother, she just couldn't provide all the luxuries the street promised, she says.

"Kids will go astray, especially if kids see flashy cars and things like that," she says.

With so many kids being shot for their sneakers and gold jewelry these days, she should have realized that the jacket would make her son a target, his mother now says.

Even before Darnell was killed, the Cherry family had been long sickened by the robberies and violence in their neighborhood caused by drugs. It especially upset Darnell, his girlfriend told a reporter after he was shot.

"Sometimes he would just sit and talk about how sick and tired he was of all the drugs in the neighborhood," she said. "Sometimes he felt he didn't have a chance."


AGE: 2


A "blunt force" knocked the life out of little Anthony Toto.

He was only 2 years old.

Anthony was throwing up blood and having trouble breathing when police and fire rescue arrived at his Grays Ferry home in the wee hours of Nov. 20. He died soon after, at a hospital.

Anthony officially died of "blunt force trauma." The medical examiner said Anthony was the victim of battered child syndrome, and that the child abuse was apparently ongoing, according to police.

No one has been arrested.

Dr. Dimitri Contostavlos, the Delaware County medical examiner who performed the autopsy, did not wish to disclose exactly how Anthony was killed until the police investigation was over.

Anthony's mother, Sherrie Toto, did not respond to numerous messages left by a reporter. Once, when she did answer the phone, she begged off:

"I can't talk about it now," she said in a pleasant voice.


Bashir Shackleford didn't get to spend Christmas with his family.

He died on Christmas Eve, shot in the chest with a .22-caliber revolver that he and some friends had been playing with.

The gun went off while in the hands of Mariah Rivers, 17, police say. He was arrested and charged with murder, reckless endangerment and weapons offenses.

Bashir's mother was too upset to talk about her son.

Bashir was a ninth-grader at Dobbins Technical School in North Philadelphia, where his older brother was a senior. At first, Bashir had some problems adjusting to high school, says his algebra teacher, Calvin Reading. But after a few months, the teacher came to view Bashir as an average but very conscientious and pleasant student.

Bashir was outgoing and was already becoming popular with students, says the teacher. Kids often waited for him outside the classroom, to chat or to go home together.

At Dobbins, students get to choose from 30 vocational trades, "from baking to architectural design," says Catherine Robinson, a guidance counselor. Students get to sample several trades before deciding on a concentration that could lead to a career. Bashir had not yet decided.

The math teacher told the class about Bashir's death when they got back after the holidays. Even though many did not know him, they were upset and wanted to send a sympathy card to the family.

"They felt he was a part of them," he says.

For the teacher, Bashir's death was the latest in a series of senseless student deaths. He has lost a student to violence each of the nine years he's been teaching.

"You wonder when kids go home each day, or for the weekend or on vacation, whether you'll see all of them again," he says. "It's a valid question any teacher can ask these days."


The school adminstrator was confused. There must be some mistake. That student wasn't the murder victim. He was the guy who did it, right?

No, not this time. This time, it was Theodore McFadden's turn to be the victim.

The 16-year-old was found dead Dec. 28 on a desolate North Philadelphia street. He was found by a passer-by lying face down with multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Just a year ago, Theodore and his best friend were on trial for the May 1991 murder and robbery of a Nigerian cab driver who had dropped them off near Theodore's Germantown home. The cab driver had just received his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

The murder charges against Theodore were dropped during the trial since he

testifed that he had just intended to rip off the cabbie of the $17 fare. The friend admitted pulling the trigger and was convicted of third-degree murder.

Calls to Theodore's family were not returned.

The faculty at Overbrook High had not seen Theodore in two years, says Ray Savage, the vice principal. Even though the school board listed him as a ninth-grader there, the school no longer considered Theodore its student.

A faculty member who knew Theodore well did not wish to discuss him, says the vice principal.

"The young man was not the kind of youngster we want to highlight," he says. "Rather than saying something bad, we'd rather not say anything."

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