Family ties drew slain youth back to Evanston
BY BOB SEIDENBERG | firstname.lastname@example.org December 6, 2012 9:54AM
Justin Murray with his mom Carolyn Murray at graduation. “He just graduated from high school and he wanted to move on,” she said. | Family Provided Photo
Updated: December 11, 2012 3:55PM
EVANSTON — When Justin M. Murray told his mother earlier this summer, that he was thinking of moving to San Diego to be with relatives, he more than had her blessing.
Murray, 19, hoped to go to school, and pursue a career, Carolyn Murray said.
“He just graduated from high school and he wanted to move on,” she said, totally supportive. “It sounded like a good plan.”
Carolyn and her son were acutely aware of problems on 1800 block of Brown Avenue where Justin would go to visit his grandmother.
Police are looking at long simmering feuds between families, which often collect on the block, as a possibility in the shooting of Justin during a surprise visit from San Diego.
The youth was found shot to death outside his grandmother’s residence at 1818 Brown, Nov. 29.
Murray, co-chair of the West Evanston Strategic Team, a group active in Fifth Ward community affairs, said her son had suggested tips as she was putting together the details for a community gun buyback program that is to be held Dec. 15.
It was he who suggested a church serve as the venue.
“If people have guns, they’re going to where they feel safe,’’ she recalled him suggesting.
“Everything he helped me do and everything I was doing to help our ward and city was what he fell victim to,’’ said the grieving mother.
Visitation for the slain youth is scheduled from noon, to 8 p.m. Friday at Haliburton Funeral Parlor, 1317 Emerson St..
The wake is to be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, 1932 Dewey Ave., Evanston, with funeral services scheduled for 11 a.m.
Until age 4, the family lived in Germany, where Justin’s father was stationed as a medical officer.
Carolyn Murray, a contractor working for the Department of Defense, described her son as a free spirit and “a warm, loving teenager who just graduated from high school and was trying to find his way in the world.”
She said her son’s caring spirit dated back to his grade school days. In sixth grade at King Lab, the youngster returned home from school one day and told his mother the team lacked a basketball coach.
He said, “Mom can’t you coach the team?”
With Mom as coach, the surprising team won all its games but one, when his mom spent some time in the hospital.
“I keep saying we were undefeated,’’ she said, brightening at the memory.
In seventh grade, she said her son brought back home a student with him one day.
“Justin was his best friend,” she recalled. The two, Justin, big for his age, and Michael Paige, burly, more compact and from a biracial background, were a sight in the halls of King Lab School, she said.
Michael, today an enlisted officer in the Air Force, became a full fledged member of the Murray family.
Patrice Payton, a longtime King Lab teacher, remembers a smile “that would light up a room.” She also remembers a special school work program where students would give up their recess to stack books or do some other chore. Justin was the student “who would give up every recess,” she recalled.
Tim Mull, a math teacher at Evanston Township High School, had Justin in his summer school Algebra 1 class.
He said the youth ‘’had a good heart, a very good heart. He was always respectful and always wanted to do the right thing.”
His mother said her son had no arrest record. At Evanston Township High School, he was suspended his senior year after a fight with another student who threatened to shoot up his grandmother’s house, she said.
Carolyn Murray said her son sometimes found himself in a bind.
On Brown, the middle-class block where she had grown up “had become a hot spot for crime and violent activities,’’ she said.
At the same time, “I had raised a child with such a sense of family that they couldn’t break out,’’ she said. “The need to reach out to family sometimes got them in situations not good for them.”
Her son seemed to start finding some distance at North Shore Academy, where he spent the rest of his senior year after his suspension from ETHS. The school serves students from all over the North Shore coping with special stresses.
Justin Murray was “an uncommon kid,” and a thoughtful youngster with a winning smile, recalled Orlando Clemmons, a teacher who became his mentor.
He said the two would have long conversations about some of the issues Justin was confronting at home. In one of their last, Justin mentioned the possibility of going to San Diego, catching Clemmons off guard.
“He said, you know, there is no reason for me to be here,” recalled Clemmons, pained by the loss. “I was kind of surprised that he came to this realization.”