Mother’s Day was the one-year anniversary of Christopher Reeves’ death.
His mother, Kimberly Reeves, marked the occasion by going to the store, buying a single white balloon and setting it free above her house in West Englewood – the same ritual she observed when her middle child missed his 22nd birthday in December.
But aside from that, she stayed inside alone, avoiding the friends and family she says remind her too much of her favorite son who was shot to death.
“I know his friends will try to come and bring me flowers and stuff, and I don’t want none of that,” she said in early April. “I don’t even
want to talk to them because … it brings back memories. I’d rather for them to just stay away because when I see them, I’m looking for my son to be with them.”
Kimberly Reeves spends most of her time at home, in an effort both to preserve her son’s memory and avoid painful reminders of the life taken from her.
Her two other sons – Mario, 30, and Jermaine, 19 – both tell her she should get out more; friends encourage her to stay active, to try to move on.
But Reeves says she doesn’t want to.
“People think because everything is over with you’re supposed to just move on, you’re supposed to just jump back to who you used to be. No, I lost a son, I’m not ever going to be that old Kim anymore,” she says.
Christopher Reeves worked at Burlington Coat Factory and took business classes at Kennedy King College; he was passionate about music and recorded almost a dozen CDs before he died. His mother says she still listens to them when she’s in the car.
The 2010 Bronzeville Scholastic Institute graduate was shot in the back at the corner of 79th Street and Paulina Avenue at about 10:50 p.m. May 11, 2012. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and pronounced dead early the next morning.
He was Chicago’s 180th homicide of 2012, according to the Chicago Police Department. Another 331 would die before the end of the year.
Like most murders in Chicago, no one has been arrested for killing Christopher Reeves; of the 511 homicides recorded in Chicago last year, 355 – or about 70 percent – remain unsolved, based on a recent review of data from the city’s data portal.
In a familiar refrain among victims’ families, Kimberly Reeves blames witnesses who won’t cooperate with police and detectives who don’t care enough to find her son’s killer. She says Christopher’s friends know who killed her son but won’t tell her or the police because they want to get revenge themselves.
Reeves says she asked her son’s friends to tell police what they know – and told detectives who they should speak to about the murder – but nothing has come of it. Reeves is frustrated with the police, who she says only talk to her when she badgers them with phone calls. They suggested she go around the neighborhood and ask people for information about her son’s killing.
Police officials declined to be interviewed for this story.
In an e-mailed statement, department spokesman Adam Collins wrote that “detectives are required to reach out to victims’ families one month after the incident, then six months and one year after the incident – at the minimum.”
Collins did not respond to a question about Reeves’ claim that police told her to gather evidence about the murder herself, but he stated in the e-mail that “every murder is investigated with the same thoroughness.”
Reeves is conflicted about what she wants to happen to the shooters.
At one point, through tears, she says she prays for him to be arrested because “there is too much killing going on already,” but later, she angrily announces that wants at least one more person dead: Her son’s killer.
“The way I really feel,” she says. “Just like he took mine, I want his life to be taken, because I want his mother to cry just like I’m crying for my son.”
After Christopher died, Reeves considered killing herself, having lost the son she calls “the life of the house.”
“He was the sweetest boy,” Reeves says, breaking into tears. “You love all your kids unconditionally, you love them all. But you always have that favorite, and he was my favorite.”
Ron Hall, who runs the Chicago chapter of the support group Compassionate Friends, says that’s a typical response for a grieving parent. Somehow, he says, it always seems like the child who died was the parent’s favorite.
And Hall says it’s common for parents to want revenge for their child’s killing, often hoping it will give them closure.
Christopher still lived with his mother in the 8200 block of South Marshfield Avenue when he was killed.
On the night he was shot, Christopher’s younger brother dropped him off on South Paulina Avenue so he could meet up with a group of friends.
Just minutes after, while Christopher and three of his friends waited on the corner for the rest of their group, a light-colored sedan pulled up, and three gunmen opened fire on the group, hitting all four people standing on the corner.
Christopher was shot in the back; another man was hit in the stomach, and two others took bullets to the ankle and right arm. Everyone but Christopher survived the attack.
It was her son Jermaine who told Kimberly Reeves about the shooting, and together they rushed to Advocate Christ Medical Center.
“My baby called me on the phone and he was like, ‘Mama, Chris just got shot,’” Reeves says. “That was the worst day of my life.”
Alexis Adams, Jermaine’s 19-year-old girlfriend, says she had known Christopher for about four years when he was killed.
“I was surprised when I got that call because I didn’t expect it to be him out of everyone I knew,” Adams says. “He was a sweet person, kind, helpful … funny, and he was a motivator.”
Adams says Christopher encouraged his younger brother to stay in school and do his best. He had promised to get his brother a special present when he graduated from high school, but Christopher died just weeks before the ceremony.
“Jermaine changed [after Christopher died]. He took it very hard because they were very close,” she says.
Jermaine Reeves declined to talk about his brother because the memory is too painful.
Both Adams and Kimberly Reeves say Christopher was not in a gang and never got into any trouble, which was why his death came as such a shock.
“He used to say, ‘That’s not the life for nobody,’” Adams says.
If it had been oldest son who was shot, Reeves says, she might have been able to understand it a little more because of his criminal activity.
Reeves’ oldest son is in prison, serving a 20-year sentence for dealing drugs. He was arrested in 2007 for selling heroin to undercover police officers as part of a sting on a heroin ring called “the poison line,” which according to court records sold $10 bags of heroin to hundreds of customers daily near the corner of 79th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
With Mario Reeves in prison and her youngest son away at school most of the year, Christopher’s ashes, held in an urn on the mantel, keep his mother company.
“I talk to my son, every morning I say, ‘Good morning,’ every night I say ‘goodnight,’” Reeves says. “I feel like he is still there with me in spirit.”
This story is part of a week-long series about homicides in Chicago. ChicagoTalks, a news outlet operated by Columbia College’s Journalism Department, undertook a semester-long investigation of the topic funded with a grant from The Chicago Community Trust. ChicagoTalks is publishing additional stories throughout the week. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail project editor Suzanne McBride at email@example.com.
Read more from this series:
- Argument over basketball game takes parents’ only child
- Family seeks answers after 8th grader’s murder
- Family, friends of murdered Uptown businesswoman say they have been left in the dark
- Killer on the line
- For some, the grieving never ends
- Families say silence the norm after Chicago homicides
- Homicide victim’s mother sees progress in Englewood
- Giving up on justice
- Families question support after loved ones’ killings
- Unsolved homicide not forgotten
- Final call to a friend