Hundreds mourn Rodney, 7 Schoolmates, officials, clergy eulogize slain youngster.

February 21, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

Anthony Drummond had these thoughts last night for his best friend, Rodney James Champy Jr.

"I love Rodney. I'm going to miss him and, one day, I'll meet him up in heaven," Anthony, 7, said.

Anthony was among about 300 people, including Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Police Commissioner Edward Woods, who packed New Pilgrim Baptist Church on North Washington Street to mourn Rodney, 7, who was found by his mother strangled, stabbed and sexually assaulted last Friday in their apartment in the 1500 block of Lester Morton Court in East Baltimore.

Mourners filed past the small white coffin where Rodney lay in a white suit with a white flower in the lapel. Floral bouquets, including one from the mayor, were arranged in front of the coffin.

When Jacqueline Cumberbatch, 35, the boy's mother, looked at her son for the last time before the coffin was closed, she cried, then tied two balloons to the coffin. One read, "You know, I love you."

The 90-minute memorial service was moving. Hymns were sung and the 23rd Psalm was read. Someone read a poem read about Rodney, who was described as a nice, friendly boy who loved basketball and football.

Rodney's principal and teacher recalled how, in such a short time, he touched the hearts of the staff and students at Thomas G. Hayes Elementary, where the second-grader had recently transferred.

"We want to remember Rodney for all the love he's brought to our school," said Pauline Bruce, the principal.

Bruce said Rodney always had a smile on his face and and wanted very much to belong to his new school.

His teacher, Olivia Jeffors, said that on Valentine's Day, he had given her a heart with a puppy on it.

"I didn't see Rodney that Friday. I thought he was sick," Jeffors said. "I got the news Saturday morning that he had died.

"I'm very sorry," she told Cumberbatch.

Schmoke, who sat in a pew behind Cumberbatch, said, "Our entire city mourns the loss of Rodney Champy. His death is tragic.

"The killing was senseless," Schmoke continued. "All of us must commit ourselves to doing all we can to stop the violence in our communities."

"In all of my years, I have not witnessed a more tragic and shameful event than this one. . . ." said the Rev. Emmett C. Burns, of the First Baptist Church of the Rising Sun.

Stephone "Fonz" Williams, 29, of the 1700 block of E. Oliver St., has been charged with first-degree murder and a first-degree sex offense in connection with Rodney's death, police said. Williams, described by police as an acquaintance of Rodney's mother, is being held without bail at the Eastern District lockup.

Burns told mourners that they have work to do because earlier yesterday two men were fatally shot and two others wounded in a drug-related shooting on North Avenue.

"The mayor and the commissioner cannot do this job alone. It is up to us. What we are doing to each other is more damaging than the bombs being dropped on Iraq."

After the service, Cumberbatch thanked everyone who had helped with donations for Rodney's funeral. His body was to be flown to Queens, N.Y., where the boy and his mother lived before coming to Baltimore, for a funeral and burial Saturday.

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