‘I feel broken’: Mom of boy found dead in Southwest Side lagoon
BY MICHAEL LANSU Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org April 21, 2013 9:14AM
Julius Campbell / Photo from Chicago Police
Updated: May 23, 2013 6:36AM
A 14-year-old boy who was stabbed to death and found floating in a Marquette Park lagoon had recently been bullied by gang members at his Southwest Side high school, his mother said.
Christina Campbell said she last saw her son, Julius Campbell, around 7:30 a.m. March 7 as he ate cereal and they discussed his lost Gage Park High School identification.
Julius said, “I love you, see you later” and left for school, his mother said. It was the last time he would speak to her.
Julius’ body was found the morning of April 12 floating in a Marquette Park lagoon near the 6700 block of South Kedzie Avenue, police said. An autopsy performed at the Cook County medical examiner’s office determined Julius died of multiple stab wounds, and his death was ruled a homicide.
“He was special. He was always there for you,” Christina Campbell said at the family home in the 5900 block of South Artesian. “When food was short, Julius knew. He said, ‘Mom, you can have a piece of my chicken’ or ‘Mom you can eat off my plate.”
Christina Campbell said school officials told her Julius, a freshman, made it to school the day he went missing, but left after his third period Army Reserve Officers Training Corps class. Julius never returned home, and his mother filed a missing person report with Chicago Police the next day, noting it was “unlike him not to call.”
She hung missing person fliers throughout the neighborhood, went to a possible girlfriend’s home and talked to his friends and neighbors, she said. The mother of one of his friends told her gang members were bullying Julius at school and somebody may have tried to shoot him the day before he went missing.
Christina Campbell said school officials had expressed concern about him recently associating with gang members and she said he have may have recently been recruited. A Chicago Police source said the department has Julius listed as a known gang member.
“I feel terrible,” Christina Campbell said. “Like he was calling out for me. I feel lost. I feel broken.”
A neighborhood boy told Christina Campbell he saw Julius walking with two men March 10 near South California Avenue and West 61st Street, she said. The boy said Julius was wearing faded black Levi jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt and Air Force 1 shoes — the same clothes he was wearing the day he went missing.
Christina Campbell said that was the last time anybody told her they saw her son.
When the body was discovered in the pond ealier this month, investigators initially believed he was a man in his 20s.
But last Wednesday, two detectives knocked on Christina Campbell’s door, asked her other children to leave the room and said the body found in the lagoon was her son, she said.
Police did not know how long Julius had been in the water, but identified him through fingerprints taken when he was arrested earlier this school year for “talking smart” to police officers, she said.
Campbell is the third former Merrill Elementary School student to be killed in the past two years, an official said.
“He was a real comical, funny kind of guy,” said David Castro, coordinator of the Teen Reach afterschool program at Merrill. “He was able to bridge the racial divides [between black and Hispanic people].”
Julius had five siblings, two older and three younger, his mother said. He enjoyed playing video games, drawing and taking apart old televisions and radios. He was often rapping with his brother or outside playing football.
“I don’t think he ran away willingly,” she said. “My heart tells me he was in some kind of trouble. … My baby knew something and tried to protect us by not being here.”
Contributing: Casey Toner