Teen recalled as playful, gifted

Mourners gather in service for 15-year-old slain outside city middle school

first killing of a youth on school grounds in decades

November 30, 2008|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

In the same West Baltimore church where he played the drums and goaded its leaders into shooting hoops with him, 15-year-old Markel Williams was remembered yesterday as a playful kid, though one who could be quite a handful.

St. Matthew's Gospel Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church, near the western end of North Avenue, was packed with tearful mourners, including throngs of relatives and City College basketball players, members of his elder brother's team.

Markel was found stabbed to death the afternoon of Nov. 21 near an entrance to William H. Lemmel Middle School - the first killing of a youth on city school grounds during school hours in more than 20 years.

FOR THE RECORD - Several articles and headlines about the Nov. 21 stabbing death of Markel Williams, a 15-year-old student at William H. Lemmel Middle School, did not provide sufficient context about the history of violence in Baltimore schools. On Jan. 17, 2001, just before school began, Juan Matthews was fatally shot near the entrance of Lake Clifton-Eastern High School. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.

A fellow classmate there, Timothy Oxendine, 14, has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bail in city lockup. His defense attorney said the case appears to involve bullying, and the Lemmel principal, Quianna Cooke, said that school officials learned of a dispute between the boys days before the killing and tried to reach out to them and their parents.

At the service yesterday, Cooke spoke briefly, offering her condolences to Markel's family on behalf of the school. Teachers and the basketball coach were also present. Markel's large family took up several pews. He is survived by his father, Emmanuel Williams Jr.; his stepmother, Ingrid Williams; his mother, Donetta Fulton Jackson; four brothers; and two sisters.

The funeral program described Markel Jamiel Williams as a loving boy whose siblings called him "Bean."

"This love could often be seen in his infectious smile, his funny stories and his contagious laugh that could literally light up a room," the program says. A slide show portrayed Markel through the years, first as a chubby toddler then later as a lanky teenager - but always with a gleaming smile in photographs.

He played basketball at the Bentalou Recreation Center and on his middle school team. Many teenagers and children filled the church pews yesterday.

Markel was "a self-taught musician who could play from ear," the program says, and he was involved in the church's youth ministry. He played drums and electronic keyboard, and took trips with the congregation.

William Thomas Jr., who leads the music department, recalled hunting for basketball courts at Markel's behest on a recent church trip. Markel begged him to play basketball with him, Thomas said, but the 31-year-old declined, noting he was no match for teenage players. Another time, Markel challenged the church bishop, a 60-year-old, to a "there-and-back" foot race. Bishop William A. Thomas Sr. said he took a few steps and then waited at the finish line. He told the boy, "I ran so fast, you couldn't even see me."

Several church officials spoke about Markel's challenging behavior but said that his teenage troubles were tempered by a good heart and strong family values.

A police spokesman has said that Markel was on a list of the area's most-troubled juveniles. His juvenile record shows he was arrested twice and charges were dismissed both times: in 2005 for burglary and theft and in 2006 for school disturbance.

That record also shows that Markel was identified by the state last year as a "child in need of assistance." He temporarily lived in a group home, but a city social services official said he was not in foster care at the time of his death.

A maternal cousin sang at the service. No other family members spoke.

Toward the end of the service, Thomas said he took Markel's killing personally and said it should be a wake-up call for parents. He vowed to "preach harder" and reach out to more young people. He and other ministers referred to "warfare" at city schools and urged parents to pray with their children before sending them to school in the morning.

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