Kidnappers cruelly take young man from family

December 14, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

Jeryl Anthony Singleterry III hasn't been born yet. He's scheduled to make his appearance on this earth sometime next month.

When young Singleterry is born, he'll join his mother, Latoya Brown, and his older sister, Shadae Brown, and his brother, Jalen M. Singleterry. A host of cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents and great-grandparents await the chance to clasp Jeryl Anthony Singleterry III unto their loving bosoms.

But thanks to an act of despicable and heinous violence, the baby boy will never know his father, Jeryl Anthony Singleterry Jr.

Baltimore County police found Singleterry's body inside his van the day before Thanksgiving. He had been shot several times. The name "Jalen" was tattooed on the left side of his neck, just where family members told police it would be.

Singleterry, 29, had vanished two days before, after dropping Jalen off at his great-grandmother's house on Hoffman Street. He called family members and told them he had been kidnapped, and that the kidnappers demanded ransom. Police said Singleterry's relatives dropped $10,000 off at various spots in southeastern Baltimore County to pay that ransom. But the money didn't save Singleterry's life.

"They could have tied him up and just left him somewhere," said Cecilia Matthews, Singleterry's mother. "That's what I thought police were going to tell me - that they'd found him tied up. I didn't want them to tell me my baby was dead."

Sitting on a couch in her Northeast Baltimore home, Matthews tried to make some sense of everything that's happened in the past 20-plus days - from the time her son was kidnapped on Nov. 21 to when his body was found to his funeral, which took place Dec. 2. It was held in the same place where Singleterry was baptized and confirmed: St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Matthews praised those who've helped her through the ordeal - her mother, Julia Matthews, her fiance and other relatives and friends "who walked me through this. They held me up and hugged and kissed me. They wiped my tears."

That praise was followed by some scorn, which Matthews heaped on the media, which she chided for speculating about her son's death being drug-related while failing to show up at his funeral to see how many people attended.

The crowd, Matthews estimated, grew to well over 1,000. Among those who came to pay homage to Singleterry were Pete Pompey, the legendary high school basketball and football coach who guided Singleterry in both sports when the latter attended Dunbar High School in the early to mid-1990s. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tommy Polley, who was Singleterry's teammate on some of those teams, also was there.

Teachers from several of the Catholic schools Singleterry attended showed up, Matthews said, as did City Council President Sheila Dixon, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and Councilman Bernard Young. Cops who knew Singleterry from his volunteer work in the Police Athletic League paid their respects.

"A couple of brothers from the Nation of Islam, they were there," Matthews said.

The list of attendees belies the theory that Singleterry's death might have been drug-related. Bill Toohey, a spokesman for Baltimore County police, agrees.

"He had no criminal record," Toohey said of the case which, so far, has yielded few leads. "He was just a regular guy. That's the tragedy of all this. It's a mystery."

What's not a mystery is the stock from which Singleterry came. The woman who raised him is the woman Cecilia Matthews credits most with helping her cope with her son's death - her mother, Julia Matthews.

Julia Matthews and her husband, the late John Leonard Matthews Sr., raised nine children of their own. They raised Singleterry and one of his cousins as well. It is in Julia Matthews' house on Mullikin Court in East Baltimore where pictures of Jeryl Anthony Singleterry Jr. adorn the wall.

There's one of Singleterry as a baby, grinning as he looks off to his right. There's another of him as a teenager. On a coffee table rests a picture of Singleterry, his mother, grandmother and other relatives. Little Jalen is in the bottom right-hand corner.

And on a table just inside the front door, there's a picture of Singleterry when he was in the eighth grade. To the left of it is a bottle of holy water. To the right of it is a crucifix.

"That's to show Jeryl's in heaven," Julia Matthews said. "I think he's resting in peace."

On a trophy stand rest basketball and wrestling trophies. The ones for wrestling belong to either Marvin or Damon Matthews, Singleterry's uncles who grappled for Dunbar. The basketball trophies belong to Singleterry. His uncle Damon took him to the McKim Center to wrestle, Julia Matthews said, but Singleterry didn't care for the sport. So Damon took him to a basketball court near Orleans Street and Broadway, which is where Singleterry started playing.

Such memories are all Singleterry's family has now. That, and a confidence that his killer or killers will meet justice, one way or the other.

"They didn't have to do that," Julia Matthews said of the assailant or assailants who killed her son. "But God's gonna take care of 'em. I don't believe in capital punishment."

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