Hamilton was shot once in the neck, Anderson was shot once in the head and Watson suffered several gunshot wounds. (March 13, 2017) http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR
When his teacher heard Devontae Watson was found shot to death in a car, along with two of his friends, the first thing she remembered was the smile of a boy with dreams.
"I want to go to college,” Watson told Laquasia Wilkins during after-school tutoring. “I want to go to college because I want to leave Chicago. And I don’t want to come back."
Watson wanted out of a city that had brought tragedy to his family time and again.
A city that decades ago took the life of his brother Eric Morse, only 5 when two older boys dropped him from the 14th floor of a CHA high-rise because he wouldn’t steal candy for them — still one of Chicago’s most infamous child murders.
A city where another brother, Derrick Lemon, was sentenced to 71 years in prison for a murder he committed years after witnessing Eric’s death.
A city that claimed Watson’s life on March 12.
"It broke my heart that he didn’t have a chance to work toward his dream," Wilkins said Friday at Watson’s funeral at Gatlings Chapel on the Far South Side.
The bodies of Watson, 18, Ryan Hamilton, 20, and Vogels Anderson Jr., 19, were discovered on a Monday morning after someone complained about an illegally parked car in an alley in the 8600 block of South Throop Street in Gresham, according to police.
Three people were found dead in a vehicle on the South Side, in the 8600 block of South Throop Street, on March 13, 2017.
Two were found inside the car, the third in the trunk. Watson suffered several gunshot wounds. His friends were each shot once, in the neck and in the head. Police have released few other details, including a possible motive.
Dozens and dozens of Watson’s friends, classmates and relatives crowded around his gray casket Friday, saying goodbyes through tears. They wore honorary pins, T-shirts and sweatshirts with “King Tay” printed on the back.
Those close to him knew him at “Tae-Tae,” a laid back guy with a taste for fashion.
“He stayed in the mirror so much, you would have thought he was a glass maker,” a relative read from Watson’s obituary.
The junior at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy wanted to play football next year, according to Shannon Martin, the dean of the college prep school. But first, he wanted to pass Spanish class, where he struggled the most.
“What challenged him most, that’s what he wanted to obtain,” Martin said.
Watson was close with his family, Martin said. Though he never spoke directly to her of his family’s tragic history, it had an impact on him, she said.
“He wanted to succeed so much more for his family,” Martin said. “His family was everything to him. It was important for him to be a pillar, to be a staple for his family.”
He was a “mama’s boy,” a relative said at the service.
His mother, Toni Watson, declined several requests for interviews as the family faced yet another loss.
In October of 1994, her son Eric’s death stunned the nation, another mark on Chicago’s growing reputation at the time as a city where children committed unspeakable acts of violence.
Eric and his 8-year-old brother Derrick refused to shoplift some candy, authorities said. Two boys, 10 and 11, lured the brothers to a vacant apartment in what was the Ida B. Wells complex, a public housing development wrought by violence, drugs and neglect.
Twice the boys held Eric out the window. The first time, his brother pulled him to safety. The second time, they hung the boy over the ledge by his wrists. The 8-year-old grabbed hold of his brother and the older children let go, one biting Derrick’s hand until he lost his grip.
Eric fell to his death, striking the garbage-covered ground and suffering massive internal injuries. His body “twisted—he looked liked every bone in his body was broken,” a witness said in the Tribune story.
The older boys, who already had criminal records, were charged in a juvenile petition with first-degree murder in 1996, becoming the state’s youngest inmates. They were the first to be judged under a new Illinois law that lowered the age at which child offenders could be sentenced to prison from 13 to 10.
Eric’s death haunted Derrick from the beginning.
“I ran downstairs. I tried to catch him,” Derrick, then 9, recalled in his testimony that opened the historic 1995 criminal trial in Cook County Juvenile Court.
A social worker who treated the youth later testified that Eric’s death left Derrick with low self-esteem and chronic depression. “He thinks of himself as almost worthless,” the social worker said at a hearing.
But his trauma held little sway in court in 2011, when Lemon, then 24, was on trial for murdering 41-year-old Illya Glover, his aunt’s boyfriend, at an Englewood barbecue in 2006.
Lemon received a combined 71-year sentence for first-degree murder and a weapons offense, a sentence the judge said was shortened by Lemon’s childhood trauma 16 years earlier. He will serve the entire sentence, prosecutors said at the April 2011 trial.
“I don’t like to keep reliving this," Toni Watson once testified during a civil suit stemming from Eric’s death. "I don’t like to keep reliving this."
Eric’s name was a brief mention in his brother Watson’s obituary: “He was preceded in death by his brother, Eric Morse.”
Left behind to mourn are both of Watson’s parents, 11 siblings and a host of extended family who held each other and hugged friends and relatives as they paid their respects Friday.
“He was all about his family, and a lot of times we would talk about how he would not want to be in this (city),” said Martin, the dean of Watson’s school. “Education is the key to getting your family in different positions and having different experiences. He was willing. He was willing.”
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