A plea from a bereaved mother: Get involved with your kids

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

February 18, 1992|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

Jerome T. Davis was born on St. Valentine's Day 23 years ago and so his family nicknamed him Romeo, or Rommie for short.

He was tall and handsome and incredibly good-natured.

"Rommie was the sweetest kid you ever met. If you met him, you couldn't help but like him," remembered his mother, Sharon Crosby.

"And he had this great sense of humor. He'd have you laughing about anything in a minute. I told him he ought to be studying Eddie Murphy and go into show business."

Last July, according to police, Davis and several friends were walking in the 1100 block of Stockton St. Witnesses claim he got into an argument with another man.

Both drew guns. Davis was shot once in the head and died on the scene.

On Friday, a suspect in the case pleaded guilty to possession of a handgun and was sentenced to three years in prison.

City Circuit Court Judge Ellen L. Hollander suspended all but 18 months and decried the proliferation of weapons.

Meanwhile, there are so many things Crosby must come to terms with: the fact that the man who killed Rommie received such a light sentence and her sense that society doesn't care about her son's death.

None of Rommie's friends, for instance, came forward to counter the alleged killer's contention that he fired in self-defense, forcing prosecutors to drop murder charges.

"What are we -- animals? Cockroaches, that young men can kill each other so casually, so quickly? I think that's what hurt me more than anything," said Crosby. "That somebody can take my son's life and nobody cared.

People say, 'Let it go, let it go.' But how can I? They don't know the hurt. He was my son. Every second of his life was precious to me."

But the hardest thing for Crosby to accept, or understand, is what she has learned about her son's life on the streets.

"After this happened, people kept coming around telling me details about what happened," she said, her voice breaking.

"Everything about what he was doing sort of fell into place. They tell me Rommie -- OK, this is difficult for me to say -- they tell me Rommie was sticking up drug dealers and they put a contract out on him."

Two days after Davis' death, his cousin, 22-year-old Kevin Jackson, was found shot to death in an alley in Cherry Hill. Crosby believes the two deaths were connected.

Now she asks herself: Could this be her son, Rommie, they are talking about? Her tall, handsome, good-humored son?

"I keep beating myself, reflecting on how it happened, where I went wrong, what I could have done differently, how it got started, who got it started," she said.

"He wasn't a deprived child. He didn't have to do what he did. He had the best of everything. His own room, TV, stereo, plenty of food. I just don't know."

For one thing, he loved mobster movies. "Scarface," starring Al Pacino, was his favorite.

That fascination apparently led him to the streets.

"He had a way of keeping his street life from me," said Crosby. "Whenever I tried to ask him about it, he'd deny it and, of course, being his mother, I didn't want to believe it.

But he was always out there. He was always into it. I couldn't keep him off. I don't know what it was out there on the streets, but whatever it was, it kept pulling him and pulling him."

"Over the years, he would come home and say things like, 'Mom, you know so-and-so? Well, he's dead.'

And I'd say, 'What kind of friends are you hanging out with that they keep dying like this?' And he'd just shrug and say, 'That's the streets, Ma. You don't know what it's like.' "

Crosby can count 10 of Rommie's childhood friends who have died violently, plus his cousin and an older stepbrother.

One night, he called his mother at 3 a.m., in tears, telling her that he didn't expect to live much longer. Another evening, about a month before he died, he called her from the hospital, where he'd gone with a gunshot wound to the leg.

In the weeks just before his death, Rommie refused to come home. And every time he called her, it was from a different location as if he were on the run.

Crosby wants her tragedy to serve as a lesson to other parents: "Get involved," she said fervently. "If you think you know your kids, don't believe it. Get to know them better.

"These deaths, it is such a waste," she said. "But it is the streets. There's something about the streets. People have no idea."

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