Lives of Findlay Family Changed by Murder Wave 15 Years Ago

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

It's the kind of sorrow that gets buried beneath the years and the statistics.

Fifteen years ago, during a murderous stretch of time not unlike the one that Jacksonville is currently struggling through, Josephine Findlay lost her 18-year-old son, Marcel, when a fellow Ribault High classmate decided to wield a gun rather than his wits to settle a grudge.

Findlay was robbed of the chance to see her son, who was a member of Ribault's Marine ROTC, the chance to make his mark in college or the military or to resolve a longstanding crush that he had on an older woman at his church.

His cousin, Micheal, was robbed of the chance to spend more summers in Toronto with him.

But Marcel's baby sister, Maria, was robbed, too. Robbed of the chance to create enough good days with her big brother so that they wouldn't be overshadowed by the one tragic one.

"I don't remember a whole lot, because I was only 8 when he was killed," Maria told me recently, as she and her mother shared kitchen-table time with me to talk about Marcel. "I remember him picking us up from school. And I remember the day he let my bird get loose in the house -- he got loose and got caught in those vertical blinds.

"But I remember everything that happened on the night he died," she said, as her steady voice gave way to long-suppressed sobs. "It was a Saturday night. I remember that Superman was on TV. I remember the phone ringing off the hook that night, and that was unusual. I remember my aunt and my uncle were driving my parents' car, and that was odd.

". . . Then they walked in the front door and all, and I remember them saying that he was gone. Everyone fell to pieces after that."

Back then, a wave of homicides was causing a lot of families like Maria's to fall to pieces. Back then, Jacksonville was leading the state in murders. People were being killed here at a rate that was 12 percent higher than that of Dade County, which includes Miami.

Now, it's happening again. Murder. Once again, Jacksonville is leading the state in bloodshed.

And once again black people -- and black males like Marcel -- are bearing the brunt of this plague.

Of the 91 slayings that occurred last year, a majority of those killed were black people, who make up only 28 percent of the city's residents.

It's a problem that, at least this time around, deserves more than speeches.

It got that treatment when Marcel was killed. I remember that people from throughout government -- from the City Council, the School Board and former Mayor Tommy Hazouri's office -- descended on St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church to condemn the violence. Seven years later, in the wake of the slaying of another black child, 3-year-old Robert Sparrow III, the same scene took place. But after the cameras left, it seems, so did any long-term commitment. …