CHICAGO - In Chicago, deadly shootings quickly become meaningless numbers if you are just someone hearing the news. But what if you had to actually live it?
First, they suffer the anguish of learning it was their child who was murdered. But the heartbreak only gets worse when the weeks, the months and years go by and they still don't know who is behind the killing of their kid.
For one mom, moving to Michigan was a way to avoid that kind of heartache, but her plan for safety didn't last long when her young daughter came back for a summer visit to the West Side -- and then she got the call.
“I was at Walmart. I was just leaving, went grocery shopping. I will never forget, my phone rang. Her stepfather calling. He says ‘are you up?’ I said ‘yes I am. What's going on?’ He was like ‘I have bad news,’” said She’vaughn O’Flynn.
She remembers the moment when her world came to an abrupt stop with a single phone call.
"Then he goes ‘She'Nyah.’ And I was like, ‘what about She'Nyah?’ And he goes ‘She's been shot.’ And my mind just went blank,” O’Flynn said.
Her 12-year-old daughter, with a beautiful smile and a love for life, was dead and no one to this day knows who pulled the trigger.
"It just hurts because I didn't get to see my child. She left on a Monday. I didn't know it was the last time I was going to see my child alive. It hurts so bad. It takes everything in me to get up every day. To continue my life for my other children. It is really hard,” O’Flynn said.
The fatal bullet tore through She'nyah's neck just as family members were returning to West Garfield Park from an evening gathering elsewhere. It did not matter to the gunman that she was holding her infant cousin who amazingly survived with a gunshot wound to the ankle. What the family did not know is that trouble had been brewing with a fight on the block, even before they had arrived.
"It was over the sale of narcotics. After the fight, shortly after the fight, two gunmen come out of a gangway down the block over here and fired several rounds toward the west. There's a group from the west that returns fire. Unfortunately, She'Nyah is coming back from a family party. As she's getting out of the car, she's walking toward her families residence when one of the bullets hits her and kills her,” said Detective Juan Morales.
Morales of Area North has been working the case for more than a year now. He has gathered the physical evidence, but not the witness information he needs to bring charges. Even he admits to the growing frustration when each week goes by and he has no one in custody.
"It hits home. I have children myself. I can't imagine what the family is going through. Especially these cases, when there's children involved, you want to find the guy. You always want to find the guy. But you really want to find the guy because this can't happen. This shouldn't happen. Something like this should never happen to a child. We want to get to the bottom of it,” Morales said.
The spot where She'nyah was killed is marked by a wooden cross. Time and rain has faded and dirtied the flowers. On the block of West Wilcox near Kildare, the parkways are full of trash, several homes are abandoned and the area is rife with gangs who were watching our every move for this report. But those stares did not stop She'nyah's mom from crying in anguish over her loss.
"If you are watching, I understand that you're scared. Please just give my child what she deserves. You guys already took her life. Just give her what she deserves. Give my family what we deserve. We deserve justice for her. This is all we have left. It's not fair,” O’Flynn said. "All I have left is an urn. Dog tags. Shirts. Memories. I don't have her physically anymore and it hurts. I don't even understand how I feel. Nobody understands this pain. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. No parent should have to bury their child."
As for the gunman, O’Flynn wants him to know that amazingly she has already forgiven him. But she needs one thing before she can move forward.
“What I want you to do is just turn yourself in. Do the right thing. You already did the wrong thing. Now let's correct your wrong and give her justice so she can rest peacefully. So I can rest peacefully,” she said.
The family is not from the neighborhood and even though this is a child who was killed, there may not be enough of a personal connection for people to take the risk and come forward.
Crimes Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person behind the shooting.