Jesse Chapman remained an enigma to most friends

August 02, 1994|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,Sun Staff Writer

Although they describe him as a jokester who loved music, many people close to Jesse Chapman Jr. say there much about him they didn't know.

"Just as you thought you knew him, he could throw you a curve," said Jackie Capel, 33, a close friend. "He was outgoing enough that you could like him and get a kick out of being around him, but you knew not to try to get too personal with him," she said.

Exactly a month has passed since Mr. Chapman died after being arrested by Baltimore police. Now, family and friends are struggling to draw a complete picture of him.

Mr. Chapman's most recent home gave few clues to his personality. He lived in the 1300 block of N. Fulton Ave. in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood with roommate Ricky Stocks, 32, who spoke about him during a recent interview.

Mr. Stocks displayed the Spartan room that Mr. Chapman rented. "He slept on the floor," he said, noting that the bedroom never contained any furniture or personal effects. He said their conversations were not in-depth, focusing mainly on experiences Camden Yards, where they worked together.

He also remembered Mr. Chapman hitting his girlfriend at least five times in the 2 1/2 weeks the two men lived together.

"I'd try to separate them. She would be crying," he recalled, adding that the confrontations often occurred after Mr. Chapman smoked crack cocaine.

"That disturbs me, of course, to think he fought women," said his mother, Judith Weston, 48. "I always taught him women were precious. I wouldn't approve of anything like that."

Neither would Ms. Capel have expected it. "I've never seen that side of Jesse, that angry side," she said. "The things that I heard through the media, that was not the Jesse I knew." Her perception of him was of jokester, a loner, and a reliable confidant. "Once you were a friend of his, he was there for you."

The two were neighbors in O'Donnell Heights housing projects as teen-agers. "We would sit on the recreation wall and kick conversations together. We laughed a lot; we did what most teen-agers do."

She said she last saw Mr. Chapman on Valentine's day when they shopped together. She said she told Mr. Chapman that she had planned a romantic dinner for her boyfriend and he jokingly told her he would show up.

Despite the playfulness they shared, she admits she did not know everything about him. "One thing Jesse was," she said, "was an enigma."

At her house in the 2000 block of Crestview Road, Mrs. Weston played a video of his funeral, pointing out people who had been dear to him.

Mrs. Weston's mother raised young Jesse along with her own children, some of whom were close to him in age. Mrs. Weston said she never got to know her first-born as well as her two younger children, with whom she spent more time.

He stopped his education after attending Hampstead Hill Junior High School. He mentioned to one of his uncles that he was leery of the violence in Baltimore city high schools, Mrs. Weston said.

Soon after he quit school, his grandmother died and his mother married Clarence Weston, a man 13 years her junior, giving Jesse a stepfather who was not much older than himself. Mr. Chapman then began to travel back and forth between relatives in Baltimore and Texas.

At 19, he was married briefly to a Baltimore woman with whom he had a son, now 8.

Ruby Weston, Mr. Chapman's 16-year-old half-sister, described him as warm, funny, and protective, and a self-taught pianist, adding that the two of them had fun with their younger brother Clarence, 14, going to picnics and enjoying music.

His sense of humor was heralded after he died. In a book of memoirs filled out at the funeral last month, Robert Warren wrote, "I will always remember that crazy laugh."

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