Dogwood tree planted at Old Mill High in memory of slain Glen Burnie man

April 27, 1995|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

A story in yesterday's Anne Arundel edition of The Sun about the dogwood planted at Old Mill High School in memory of Arthur Raymond Childress IV incorrectly stated the source of some of the money to pay for a plaque. The money was raised by former co-workers of Jim Bavis, Mr. Childress' grandfather.

The Sun regrets the error.

Arthur Raymond Childress IV would have turned 20 this week. Instead, his family and friends gathered at Old Mill High School to remember the Glen Burnie man, who was shot to death last year by a rival suitor.

"We are not here to dwell on his death. We are here to remember that he still lives in us and he's watching over us," his mother, Melanie Thompson, said yesterday, her voice breaking.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

More than 30 people ringed a freshly planted dogwood tree on the school lawn and clutched long-stemmed white carnations that they left around a plaque beneath a dog

wood.

The dogwood, placed by Timothy Bavis, Mr. Childress' uncle, is intended as a reminder to everyone, including Old Mill students, that violence exacts a heavy toll.

"I hope that the kids in this school add up the years and count 19 before they try to take out their frustrations with a gun," Mr. Bavis said.

Like the tree, family and friends said, Mr. Childress' life was just starting to blossom. The 1993 Old Mill graduate was a happy-go-lucky young man with a quick smile, they said, who used to raid his grandparents' refrigerator and pay them back by helping around the house. He had a new girlfriend and was working to become a master electrician, they said.

It all ended almost a year ago as he sat in his car at an intersection in Glen Burnie, begging for his life.

Mark Anthony Wheelton, 17, of Lansdowne, enraged that Mr. Childress was dating his former girlfriend, pulled the trigger of a handgun and killed Mr. Childress with one shot to the head.

Wheelton was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. This month, a Lansdowne youth was found delinquent -- the juvenile equivalent of guilty -- as an accessory to first-degree murder for giving Wheelton the handgun.

Mr. Childress' mother spent his birthday Tuesday working and crying. "I went to his grave for about an hour and sat there," Ms. Thompson

said.

"It was very difficult, [I] kept thinking about the day he was born. He was a 3-pound baby, and I kept wondering if this little guy is going to make it. God gave me 19 good years with him," she said.

Ms. Thompson spends her spare time going wherever young people gather so that she can tell them about the senselessness of violence.

Tomorrow, she will be among those recognized in Annapolis by the state's attorney's office for her dedication to victims' rights.

"Melanie has worked hard to channel her anger and frustration to help other teens," said Shelley George, a victims' advocate with the state's attorney's office who attended yesterday's ceremony.

The family said they appreciate thoughtful gestures, such as Old Mill High's allowing them to plant the tree and the $250 collected by the former co-workers of Mr. Wheelton's grandfather to help buy the memorial plaque that was placed beneath the tree.

Arthur Raymond Childress III said he and his son maintained a close relationship even as the young man matured.

"He was my best friend. . . . He was a good kid," said Mr. Childress.

The days without his son have been difficult, he said, but "I guess he's inside of my heart, keeping me going."

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