IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS, the number of kids in King County age 17 and younger who were killed has nearly tripled. Guns were involved in most of the killings. -----------------------------------
Do you remember Cory Lee Flowers? Or Breighonna Moore?
Or have Flowers, who was strangled by two angry traveling companions in January, and Moore, who died from child abuse in March, been eclipsed in the news by those youngsters slain more recently?
Rachel Stout is taking no chances with the memory of her son, Dealando Gray, who was 11 years old for just one week, and now, for an eternity. Dealando was shot to death accidentally last fall.
In her home in South Seattle's Holly Park neighborhood, Stout flips through this year's proposed anti-violence legislation. She's gone to Olympia to give heartfelt testimony to state lawmakers. Locally, she's addressed community activists who want to add violence-prevention lessons in schools.
Stout intends to keep Dealando's spirit alive long enough for things to change. Two weeks after she said she called police about teens playing with a gun, a 14-year-old neighbor fatally shot Dealando while he was watching television. She's pushing for programs for children who run the streets, who have wrested control from their parents.
"Those are the ones who are most likely to be carrying weapons. Those are the ones most likely to be using weapons," Stout said.
WHO WAS KILLED
Last year, 22 King County children were homicide victims. That's almost enough to fill a classroom. But this Class of 1993 will never graduate or marry. In the past five years, the number of homicide victims age 17 and younger has nearly tripled.
In 1993, more boys, 13, were killed than girls, nine. The youngest victim was 6 weeks old, killed by her mother. But tragedy falls more frequently on older teens. An equal number of 17-year-olds - eight - died in 1993 as did kids ages 13 to 15 combined. Some were killed by accident, while others were killed in incidents that included links to drugs, gangs and arguments.
Eighteen of the children died from gunshot wounds. That's double the number of youths who died from gun injuries in 1992.
The trend appears to be continuing in 1994.
The first homicide victim of the year, Shaun Everett Proctor, 15, was shot to death outside a Tukwila apartment complex Jan. 1. Late Thursday, Nairobi L. Bass and Aalihya Brown, both 16, were shot to death in their West Seattle apartment. And late Friday, Anthony Solomone Hefa, 17, was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Seattle convenience store on Martin Luther King Way South. (Story, B 2.)
Are these youngsters remembered after the sirens fall silent and the news stories end?
Even one of the most highly publicized victims, 9-year-old Loetta Coston, who was shot to death in April when her mom honked at a car in front of her in South Seattle's Brighton neighborhood, may be slipping away from our consciousness.
For example, an officer in the Mount Baker Community Council - talking about a gun-control initiative the council passed in the aftermath of Loetta's death - recently searched his memory and an office mate's recollection. Neither could remember the girl's name.
For the families and the friends of these young victims, the loss is for a lifetime. And memories of their loved ones haven't faded. Many find coping with the loss difficult.
Margaret Greenwood snipped her great niece's umbilical cord when she was born. Three years later, she was at the hospital when life support to the battered girl was cut.
Breighonna Moore was dead, less than three months after she was placed in foster care. The foster parents have been charged with second-degree murder.
Greenwood, 41, recalls Breighonna as a friendly child who stood in the window, waving and saying `Hi' to every passer-by. She still dreams about her.
"Breighonna will never be forgotten in my heart. She'll always be there," said Greenwood.
The public appears picky about whom it eulogizes, expressing compassion for some youths and denying it to others.
Rebecca Mustard got no sympathy from non-family members when the skeletal remains of her daughter were found last year.
Margaret "Maggie" Hodsdon, 16, was last seen alive after a prostitution arrest. After the arrest, a state caseworker noticed fresh knife wounds to the girl's face. The teen asked to go outside for a cigarette. She was never seen alive again, Mustard said.
"People just don't want to think that it could happen to them also - which it can," said Mustard, 34.
Keith Lavell Ford's death provides a sharp contrast. When Ford was savagely beaten, then shot, even police officers - who knew the drug dealer from chasing him through the High Point neighborhood in West Seattle - offered condolences, said Vergie Ford, 35, his sister-in-law.
Absolute strangers have sent cards and letters to the family of a youth caught in crossfire at SeaTac Mall, said John Spears, 38, father of the victim, Zac.
And residents from across the state sent donations to a fund in Loetta Coston's memory. Several thousand dollars were gathered, most sent right after the child was slain.
If anything links the families of victims, it is a sense of anger.
"That's the only thing that keeps me composed, I've been so angry about it," said Doug Flowers, 38. His son, Cory Lee Flowers, was strangled by people he knew in late January, then dumped in the woods near North Bend.
Researchers at the University of Washington, who are working on a study of grieving parents, sometimes ask them to keep journals or write letters to the murderer - knowing the correspondence may never be mailed - just to vent. Many are reliving the incident, are haunted by anger and thoughts of revenge.
"If they acted this out, they would be in trouble," said Shirley Murphy, a UW professor in psychosocial nursing. Murphy runs the federally funded study that has given 80 parents emotional support and information about coping with the loss of their children.
Would curfews help, more supervised programs for youths, perhaps better gun control? Dona Davis mulls ideas that have come to her mind since her daughter, Latasha, was killed last August by a man she dated casually.
"Actually, I don't know what will help these kids nowadays. Seems like one gets killed every day," Davis said.
Many parents are angered by the senselessness and relentlessness of the violence. From that rage - in some cases - has come action.
Margaret Hodsdon's mother, Mustard, is talking about her daughter's death to girls who are living and working on the streets.
It's as if she were speaking a foreign language to them.
"They're out doing the same thing that Margaret's done, running away, prostitution, drugs, the gangs," Mustard said. "I basically tell them `Hey, I don't want to see this happen to you. You're a beautiful person, don't let this happen.' All you can do is pray."
John Spears is lobbying a King County juvenile judge to try as an adult the 15-year-old youth charged with killing his son Zac. Spears' wife, Jacqueline, is working with Mothers Against Violence in America, lobbying legislators. The group, started by a Mercer Island mother, aims to reduce youth violence and promote children's well-being.
While others put elected officials on the hot seat, Donald Cassell wants to push communities to be more accountable. The community forum he's organized - "Operation Youth of Tomorrow" - will take place at 7 p.m. next Sunday at the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center, 104 17th Ave. South, Seattle.
Three weeks after the death of daughter Loetta Coston, Cassell was among those marching down Rainier Avenue South demanding safe streets. He considers his new community organizing work therapeutic. But he doesn't expect success any time soon.
"It's a slow process, but it's a due process," said Cassell, 31. "Even people who didn't have children are clinging to this because it really means something."
--------------------- A LOOK AT THE VICTIMS --------------------- THE CHILDREN shown below were killed in King County in 1993. The tragedies often generate news stories, but the memories of the youths seem to soon slip from the public consciousness. But the families will never forget.
-- CORY LEE FLOWERS, 17 Strangled in late January; body found Feb. 3 in the woods near North Bend. Flowers was killed by two angry traveling companions after he "burned" one of them in drug deals. Kelly L. Beard, 24, of Idaho, and accomplice Jessica Dumas, 21, of Seattle, were sentenced to nearly 21 years each for first-degree murder. -- MARGARET HODSDON, 16 The girl's skeletal remains and clothing were found March 4 in an illegal dump in Seattle's Rainier Valley, not far from where she was last arrested for prostitution. Hodsdon was last seen alive Dec. 1, 1991. -- BREIGHONNA MOORE, 3 Died from blunt impact after suspected abuse. Michael Jackson, 24, alleged the foster child hit her head when she fell from a swing. Prosecutors said either Jackson or his wife, Laurinda, 23, caused the injuries, then failed to get medical care. The SeaTac couple fled to Florida after the child died March 13. The Jacksons' second-degree murder trial is to begin Feb. 15. -- LOETTA COSTON, 9 Killed in an April 17 incident in South Seattle's Brighton neighborhood after her mother honked at a car stopped in front of her. Vy Vi Ork, 22, fired several shots, one fatally wounding Coston in the forehead. Ork was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison. -- AUDRA LETNES, 16 Strangled, stabbed, then fatally battered in the head with a chunk of concrete by a 20-year-old former boyfriend she met late at night - despite getting a no-contact court order against him. Letnes was found May 12, north of Seattle near Innis Arden Park, a few blocks from her home. The former boyfriend, Matt Wright, was found guilty of first-degree murder. He has not yet been sentenced. -- VANESSA BAISDEN, 17 Shot at close range by boyfriend in apparent murder-suicide pact after three-hour standoff with King County police, June 2 in Snoqualmie. Donald Leonard Dunn Jr., 22, of Enumclaw, suffered two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the shoulder. Dunn was to face trial for first-degree murder on Wednesday. -- NAKIA NANCE, 17 Accidentally shot June 12 by an acquaintance after a shoving match during a pickup basketball game in Kent. Lessie Daniel, 18, was found not guilty of second-degree murder for shooting Nance in the chest inside the apartment that Nance shared with Daniel and his relatives. Witnesses who claimed Daniel shot Nance in anger changed their stories. -- KEITH LAVELL FORD, 17 Shot to death June 17 in a parking lot in High Point in West Seattle. Four men attacked Ford - who was believed to carry $15,000 in cash and a lot of drugs - as he exchanged crack for rolls of film. Samuel Lloyd Hawkins, 20, shot Ford in the back as he fled. Hawkins was sentenced to more than 27 years for first-degree murder. -- PAUL MINH NGUYEN, 16 Killed in a drive-by shooting in South Seattle July 10 after returning from fishing. Friends of Nguyen's argued with occupants of a car that was passing by. When the car swung by again, shots were fired, striking a boy in the legs and fatally wounding Nguyen. -- BUNNA REAM, 17 Gunned down as he and his girlfriend strolled in Seattle's International District after the Torchlight Parade July 30. Witnesses said Ream was fired at by someone in a group of five or six young men. The youth's father thought Ream's clothing may have enraged the group. Second-degree murder charges against a 17-year-old were dropped after a key witness couldn't identify him as the shooter and the teen was found to have no gunpowder residue on his hands. -- LATASHA DAVIS, 14 Killed Aug. 8 in South Seattle when a man she occasionally dated offered her a ride then passed a loaded, cocked, semi-automatic gun toward her in the car. Brian "Kevin" Porter, 19, said the gun accidentally discharged, killing Davis at point-blank range. Porter was sentenced to 4 1/2 years after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter. -- EMERSON SWAIN, 15 Shot in a Sept. 10 drive-by, allegedly as retaliation for a gang-related killing in May, in South Park. Audencio Chavez, 16, is charged with shooting Swain outside a West Seattle home, despite calls from passengers in his car not to aim for Swain. Chavez's trial in adult court began Jan. 20. Cedric Dale, 17, a front-seat passenger, also faces murder charges in adult court. -- DEALANDO GRAY, 11 Shot Oct. 24 while watching TV, by a 14-year-old neighbor in South Seattle's Holly Park neighborhood. Gray died the next day. The neighbor had found a .22-caliber handgun in a stereo speaker and told police he thought it was unloaded. The teenager, who faced trial in juvenile court, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to a year in detention. -- JOSEF BOSCH, 17 Shot by a King County police officer in SeaTac Nov. 1, after Bosch allegedly pointed a gun at the officer. Bosch and his brother, Jason, 18, were accused of being the bandits who wore masks of former presidents Nixon and Reagan during a string of armed robberies at hotels. -- YACEDRA PLEASANT, 13 Shot in chest Nov. 11 by a 15-year-old brother while she and two younger brothers watched television in their South Seattle home. The teenager, who had bought the .38 caliber revolver to protect himself and his mother, said the gun accidentally discharged as he played with it. The next hearing in his first-degree manslaughter case is set for March 16 in juvenile court. -- MICHAEL MARCYES, 17 Shot to death Dec. 6 by a close friend who had moved in with Marcyes' family in their SeaTac home. Marcyes and Henry Jack Kemp Jr., 18, bought a 12-gauge, sawed-off shotgun, fearing retribution after a fight about drugs. They tossed the gun back and forth much of the night before Kemp fatally shot his friend. Kemp, charged with first-degree manslaughter, has said he did not think the gun would discharge. Hearings on Kemp's case have been delayed until Thursday. -- SUNTERIOR CRAVENS, 15 Pregnant girl found shot to death Dec. 10 at Brighton Playfield in South Seattle. Cravens had received a call hours earlier from a boy she had been seeing before she went to meet him at the park at 8 p.m. Dec. 9. Earlier in the month, she had gotten death threats from a male caller. Police interviewed several potential suspects but have made no arrests; investigation remains open. -- ZACARIAH SPEARS, 16 Killed outside SeaTac Mall Dec. 10 after one of his friends got into a fight over gang signs. A 15-year-old gang member allegedly fired a .22-caliber semi-automatic at Spears' friend after exchanging mean stares, gang signs and insults. A hearing Feb. 7 is to determine whether the youth is to be tried in adult court. -- ERNESTO MATA, 17 Fatally wounded by a shotgun blast after allegedly firing at Bellevue police Officer Greg Lum. Lum had trailed the stolen van carrying five teens after sighting it driving on the wrong side of the street. The Dec. 19 shootout occurred after the van pulled into a Medina neighborhood. Four youths in the van were charged with possession of stolen property. One teen, Rocco Larocca, 16, charged with assault and will be tried as an adult. -- ABEL MACHUCA, 6, Shot to death by his 24-year-old mother (family shown in photo above) in a murder-suicide, possibly prompted by her boyfriend's reluctance to marry the woman. Leo Clark, the boyfriend, found Janice McNamee and her three children dead Dec. 26 in his home near Federal Way. -- RYAN MACHUCA, 4 Brother of Abel, also shot to death by their mother in the murder-suicide. -- BRIANNA MCNAMEE, SIX WEEKS Sister of Ryan and Abel, shot to death by their mother in the murder-suicide. Leo Clark, the boyfriend, was the newborn's father.
SOURCES: King County Medical Examiner's Office, Department of Youth Services court records, Superior Court records, Seattle Times files.