Killings don't spare young

A boy found fatally stabbed in an alley was 13, with traits of a child and a teen

Confronting Crime

The Battle For Baltimore's Future

December 01, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

His family remembered the boy who loved to read Harry Potter and excelled in elementary school. Ty'wonde M. Jones turned 13 this year and seemed to sprout in height overnight.

But the family also lamented some of the choices the youngster had made in his short life - hanging with friends who repeatedly got into trouble, staying out past 2 a.m., some run-ins with police.

Thursday, Ty'wonde was stabbed to death and left in an alley a block from his home in Northwest Baltimore's Park Heights neighborhood. He is among the youngest victims in a city in which 268 lives have been lost to homicide this year, 28 of them under the age of 18.

"I talked to him. I punished him. I grounded him," his grandmother, Annabel Jones-Tillman, said just hours after the boy died. She was standing on her back porch clutching photographs of him.

"I kept telling him, `Life is no joke. You can't get a second chance,'" Jones-Tillman said. "But when they get a certain age, you can't tell them what to do."

Police released few details on the killing. Ty'wonde was found about 9 p.m. Thursday on a small patch of grass and dirt behind a vacant boarded-up rowhouse in the 5000 block of Cordelia Ave. Police said he had been stabbed several times and was pronounced dead on the scene.

Yesterday, a white sheet with spots of dried blood and a blue latex glove remained at the site where Ty'wonde died, left behind by the emergency workers who responded to the call. The grass and dirt were still stained by his blood.

His relatives described the frenetic moments leading up to learning he had died. People began calling Jones-Tillman at her rowhouse in the 3700 block of W. Garrison Ave. She had helped raise the child since he was 6 months old and had adopted him seven years ago because his parents were unable to care for him.

His mother, Monica Jones, came to the house and went looking for him. She was guided to the alley, where she said she saw her son's body. Police wouldn't let her near him, she said. "I was devastated," she said. "That's my baby."

Ty'wonde went to live with his grandmother, an administrative assistant at Baltimore Circuit Court, and other relatives, shortly after he was born in 1994. Jones-Tillman adopted him in 2000.

Relatives said Ty'wonde and three siblings suffered from varying levels of lead paint poisoning, from the time they spent growing up in a rowhouse in the 3700 block of Beehler Ave. in Northwest Baltimore.

The family filed two lawsuits in Baltimore Circuit Court against the landlord, who responded in court papers that some of the problems the children exhibited were the result of other family issues. One suit, filed in 2004, was dismissed; another one against the landlord is pending.

Ty'wonde's relatives said he had done well in grade school, at Langston Hughes Elementary in Park Heights. But then his demeanor slowly started to change. He was in the seventh grade this year, at Garrison Middle. He hung out with friends that his grandmother said she wished he had avoided. He started staying out late at night.

"When I tried to talk to him, he wouldn't open up," said Doristine Jones, an aunt. "The only thing I could do was be there for him."

His relatives said he wasn't in a gang, yet he and some friends got into trouble for jumping and beating a boy last week at school. He was suspended, and he and his grandmother were supposed to attend a suspension hearing with school officials next week, his grandmother and mother said.

Instead, a school official called the family to offer condolences, Jones-Tillman said. Officials at Garrison Middle did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Ty'wonde's relatives said they planned to hold a vigil today at 6 p.m. at the spot where Ty'wonde was found. Jones-Tillman said the boy was loved by many children in the neighborhood, who were grief-stricken and went to visit the family yesterday morning.

To get to the rowhouse where Jones lived, friends and family have to walk into the alley behind West Garrison Avenue because the front porch has been demolished and is being renovated.

Jones-Tillman said she hopes one day soon to sell the house and move out of a neighborhood that has been blighted by drug dealing and violence for much of the 10 years she has lived there.

"We're trying to fix it up so I can sell it," said Jones-Tillman, who has other children and relatives living with her. "I'm trying to get them out of here."

Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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