Campus memorial dedicated to slain Towson student

PAIN OF DEATH REMEMBERED

September 20, 1994|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Sun Staff Writer

On the first anniversary of his son's death, Kenneth Lee remembered the pain all over again. The telephone call informing him of his son's tragic death. The tears he shed. The anguish of never seeing his elder son reach full adulthood.

Standing next to his wife and younger son on a cool sunny day at Towson State University, Mr. Lee relived those memories again yesterday as he stared quietly at the tree and headstone memorializing his son. Joel J. Lee, 21, a Towson State student, was shot to death Sept. 2, 1993, during a street robbery in Northeast Baltimore.

The elder Mr. Lee and his family were invited to Towson State yesterday by members of his son's fraternity for the dedication of a crab apple tree and headstone "to the Memory of Joel Lee by the Brothers of Sigma Alpha Mu."

"I am still grieving and so is my poor family," said Mr. Lee of Ellicott City, an environmental engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore. "I appreciate the school and my son's friends for this dedication because they really cared about my son.

"I don't want his death to be forgotten. I think this dedication will remind people that we have to do something about crime."

His son's fraternity brothers felt the same way.

"He never made it to his initiation so we went to the national chapter and had him initiated," said Mitch Sheiner, president of Sigma Alpha Mu. "Joel was here once and we wanted to remind people of that. Everyone that sees [the tree and headstone] will be reminded of him."

Joel Lee was just two weeks shy of initiation into the fraternity when he went to borrow a computer science book at a friend's house. He was carrying a hand-drawn map of the area and apparently had gotten lost when "four marauding youths" accosted him in a parking lot in the Dutch Village Apartments, a police report said.

One of the teen-agers demanded his wallet but Joel Lee refused and was shot just below the right eye with a .25-caliber pistol, police said. He died instantly, still clutching the map.

Davon Antonio Neverdon, 19, was arrested in Harford County June 16 and was charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery with a deadly weapon. Mr. Neverdon of the 2400 block of Bridgehampton Drive, Northeast Baltimore, faces arraignment Sept. 29.

Joel Lee's death led hundreds of Towson State students to hold a vigil in his honor and university officials to present his parents a posthumous bachelor's degree for him. About 50 people attended yesterday's dedication on a grassy hill near the center of the campus. The memorial was sponsored by Sigma Alpha Mu members to "deal with their brother's death," said Dan Dinkin, the fraternity's chapter adviser.

"There was a lot of grief in the chapter and they didn't know how to deal with it," Mr. Dinkin said. "I think they used this memorial as one way to express their feelings and deal with the pain. It's a major shock to lose somebody like that, especially while you're in college."

Mike Ertel, a Towson State and Sigma Alpha Mu alumnus, agreed.

"These people who kill people don't understand the impact of taking another human being's life and how it impacts other people involved," Mr. Ertel said. "In this case, it impacted not just the family but also a university."

Which is exactly what Kenneth Lee is hoping. "I don't want other parents to experience what I had to experience," he said. "Maybe this will remind people that crime is more important than anything else right now. That crime is not just a city problem. That, little by little we can help reduce the crime rate. I don't want my son's death to have no meaning."

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