MURDER IN ST. JAMES TOWN

THE UNSOLVED KILLING OF A BASKETBALL PRODIGY — AND HIS MOTHER’S GRIEF

Matthew McKinnon
Feb 17, 2015 · 21 min read

by Matthew McKinnon

Originally published in the March 2004 issue of Toronto Life

THERE WAS NEVER a time when he was small. Three inches longer than the average baby from first breath, with a head so big that his mother, Audette, spent a lifetime teasing him about the Caesarean she endured to get him out. Adults mistook him for a five-year-old at age two; as a preschooler, he was forever outgrowing the leather shoes that an aunt kept mailing from England. From kindergarten on, he stood in the center of the back row for every class picture.

Sometimes he hated his size. One day in third grade, he came home demanding to know why he always had to be the tallest. “Don’t worry,” his mom told him, “big people can play basketball.”

So he played. He fussed at the game by himself for a while, then, when he was ten, signed up for a house league near home in Mississauga. He biked to and from the gym, and brushed his mother off when she asked to come along. They practised together in the driveway, but Audette didn’t understand the sport yet and couldn’t say if he was any good.

The truth: Justin Shephard was a rare prize, an athlete savant. He romped through the house league but waited until he made the traveling rep squad before agreeing to let his Mom watch him play. Audette missed the season’s opening game, but caught the thrill in Justin’s voice when he came home and told her that his team, the Mississauga Monarchs, had won by a single point. She drove to Kitchener for the next game, knees shaking like jackhammers as she waited for the start. “I watched those skinny long arms coming down the court, and I thought to myself, ‘He’s going to lose the ball, he’s going to lose it. Please, Justin, give it to somebody else,’” Audette says, a smile rising with the memory. “And I’m looking at him, and I’m like, wooooow! I never knew the little bugger had such skills.”

Justin was a man-child by thirteen, six foot three with swollen muscles and a moustache. He was ambidextrous. He could start games dribbling and shooting with his left hand, but switch to his right if the defence caught wise and adjusted its coverage. “And Justin would just laugh,” Audette says. “He’d say, ‘Mom, they can’t hold me!’”

In the summer of 1996, the Monarchs travelled to Sarnia for the Ontario Basketball Association’s championship tournament. Audette sat in the back row of the gym’s bleachers for every game that weekend. Justin was Goliath, posting up close to the hoop and scoring at will against opponents still waiting on puberty. Mississauga breezed through the early rounds, with Justin dunking the ball at every opportunity. Sometimes he started his move on the wing — quick twitch to send a defender sideways, slick dribble through the paint, a lunge for the air above the rim. Or he faced the basket and flicked jumpers, too tall for the other boys to worry his shot. The stands were fullest when the Monarchs played; Justin’s name rattled through the hallways when they didn’t.

Audette was a coil of nervous energy during the title game, twisting out of her seat as she watched Mississauga’s hard-fought victory. Justin poured in forty-four points. He purposely avoided dunking in the final: a gentle reminder to the assembled coaches that he could throttle the opposition however he pleased. It worked. After the tournament, they voted him the top eighth-grader in the province. Audette keeps a picture from that year — Justin in an orange jersey, cramming the ball over two defenders — in the bedroom shrine she made eighteen months after he was murdered.

ST. JAMES TOWN began as an upper-middle-class wonderland. The neighbourhood — hemmed by Bloor, Parliament, Wellesley and Sherbourne — jumped to life in the 1870s, postcard-perfect Victorian homes set in rows on its tree-lined streets. It remained in vogue through the turn of the century, but the rich migrated north to Rosedale as the city expanded, and St. James Town suffered a slow collapse.

The arc of that decline steepened when, in 1953, city council raised density allowances to more than triple the downtown average, making St. James Town a prime target for reinvention. Developers purchased half of the area’s existing houses and pressured the remaining landowners to move on. They arranged leases with rental agents, giving them instructions to take only the worst tenants. Violent drunks moved in. Garbage piled up on the lawns and snow on the sidewalks. Frequent fires sped the decay.

The block busting was brutal and efficient. Developers bought up the remaining houses as they emptied. Two highrises went up in 1959; another sixteen followed during the 1960s. All but a few single-family homes were razed; the space between the towers was left to grass and concrete. The scheme was supposed to attract upwardly mobile singles and young professionals, but few saw the appeal. The new St. James Town offered little in the way of shops, cafés or any other urban pleasures. The towers looked like tombstones and soon became a purgatory for low-to-moderate-income families.

And so it remains. St. James Town is Canada’s densest census tract, at last count (2001) housing some 15,000 people. It is Toronto’s Ellis Island: forty percent of the neighbourhood’s residents emigrated to Canada after 1996. Most leave at their earliest chance.

Audette knew all this before moving to 545 Sherbourne, a thirty-one-storey, brick-and-slab apartment building on St. James Town’s western border. But location was all she cared about. Mississauga had worked when Justin was young, but he chafed at teenage life in the suburbs. He didn’t like the GO Train, transit downtown took two hours, and taxis passed him by late at night. He transferred schools three years in a row, joining a better basketball team each time, eventually landing all the way across the Danforth at Eastern Commerce, the acme of Toronto high school hoops.

Audette is lean and pretty, with slender hands and the lingering lilt of a Caribbean accent; the second youngest of six children, she was born in Trinidad. When we first met, she answered the door in a navy blouse with gold buttons, black basketball shorts and flip flops. Living in St. James Town, she told me, allowed her to park her car and walk to her bank job on Bay Street. And the move put Justin steps away from the subway and only five stops west of school.

Their two-bedroom apartment was on the twentieth floor, with a balcony looking southeast to the lake. Justin’s room was the typical teenager’s disaster — clothes piled wherever he climbed out of them. Audette tried pinning his basketball medals to a wall, but he took them down. His pet pitbull, Grimy, slept in Justin’s room as a puppy, and later on a bed by the linen closet.

“A lot of people talked about the neighbourhood not being the best,” Audette says, “but I don’t interfere with anybody. I go to my work, I go to my church, and I go home. I didn’t think it would be much of a problem.”

Audette had immigrated to Canada in 1970, after a favourite cousin, who had already settled here, secured her passage. She studied business at George Brown, and stepped into work with the CIBC after graduating in 1972. She shivered through five winters, missing her parents and siblings. In 1977, while visiting a friend in Richmond Hill, she met Garth Magloire. Audette didn’t think much of him that night, or again for months afterward. That changed when he turned up at a party, this time near her apartment in Don Mills. It was love at second sight.

Garth already had a daughter and a newborn son, Jamaal, but fell into a relationship with Audette that lasted almost six years. Justin was born on February 21, 1982. His parents never shared a roof and broke up before his first birthday. Audette raised her baby alone. (Garth Magloire did not return telephone messages seeking comment for this story.)

Audette spoiled Justin in every way she could. Keeping him in clothes that fit was like hand-bailing the Titanic, but she tried anyway. She loved buying him new things, and carried a bundle of credit notes in her purse from the times she returned what he didn’t want. She learned the labels he liked (Polo, Phat Farm, Johnny Blaze), and which to avoid (Sean John, Tommy Hilfiger, Rocawear).

Audette enjoyed watching Justin dress for dates. He’d catch her and say, “You’re glad I’m your son, eh, mom?” grinning down at her.

“Oh, you think you look nice, don’t you?” she’d tease back.

“You know where I’m from, mom,” he would say. “You know your son.”

And they would laugh together.

One time, Audette brought home an expensive jersey and insisted Justin try it on straight away. He slipped the shirt over his shoulders and shrugged.

“Justin,” she said, “I’m excited because I spent a lot of money on this thing. Do you like it?”

“Yeah, that’s cold still.”

“What does that mean — yes or no?” she asked.

“Yes, mom. I forgot you were from the old days. You don’t know the deal.”

Mother and son had their own slang. Mississauga was Dog City, they lived in a doghouse, ate dog food and drove a dogmobile; Audette was Mom Dukes, Justin was Sheep Dog. They went to mass together every weekend until he was fourteen, with Mom Dukes insisting on collared shirts and dress pants. Justin, worried that his friends might see him all churched up, would run outside in his house clothes to pull the car into their garage before getting ready. When he was nineteen, he had Audette’s name tattooed above his heart.

After watching the Monarchs that first time, Audette shuttled Justin to as many games as her schedule would allow. She was nervous on every outing, fretting over a potential loss or injury; Justin would sit quietly in the front seat, mapping moves in his head. On drives to Windsor, Brantford, Canton and Oswego, a sack of CDs beside him, he worked the stereo, speakers pounding hip hop. They listened to Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt (“Nine to five is how to survive, I ain’t trying to survive / I’m trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot”), 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me (“To be a soldier, must maintain composure at ease / Though life is complicated, only what you make it to be”) and Biggie Smalls’ Ready to Die (“Because the streets is a short stop / Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jumpshot”).

Garth spoke to Justin on the phone most weeks, but they rarely met in person. Justin and half-brother Jamaal talked nearly every day and saw each other — usually on a basketball court, for one-on-one matchups that Justin sometimes won — every chance they got. Six foot eleven and built like an inverted anchor, Jamaal led the Eastern Commerce Saints to Ontario championships in 1995 and 1996. He played for Canada’s national team in 1996 and 1997, accepted a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, won an NCAA title in 1998 and graduated with the school’s all-time record for blocked shots.

Jamaal played in tournaments all over Toronto when he lived here. He frequently rubbed shoulders with Ro Russell, director and head coach of Grass Roots Canada, an organization that recruits area prodigies to its travelling club team. The Grass Roots squad competes in top-level tournaments all over North America, showcasing players to American prep school and college scouts who seldom look north to Toronto.

Justin dropped forty-seven points the first time Russell saw him on the court. “He was a phenom, probably the best fourteen-year-old in Canada,” the coach says. “He always had the upper hand in strength and athleticism. He’d be playing against eighteen-, nineteen- and twenty-year-olds and kicking their butts.” The invitation to join Grass Roots was automatic.

JUSTIN KEPT two homes in St. James Town — the apartment he shared with Audette and the basketball court tucked among the towers on Bleecker Street. A compact green slab, the court is bounded by waist-high concrete barriers and a chainlink fence. Low benches stripe the sidelines. A full-service jungle gym sits adjacent; shouts crash in the space between. In a neighbourhood where there is nothing to do, it is the perfect place to pass the day.

Fully grown, Justin was six foot five and played ball at a blur, shaking defenders with a magician’s fake and crossover dribble that flicked like a whip. He worked his game on playgrounds from Mississauga to Scarborough, earning pocket money by accepting all challengers in make-it, take-it, one-on-one runs to eleven. (The Bleecker games were invariably for cash.) “Guys wanted to come at Justin to see who would be the first to beat him,” Russell says. “And he’d put it on the line — $20, $50, $100. He said it was a waste of time playing for nothing.”

Justin talked a river of junk, no matter the score. “I took your heart,” he used to say, snapping the ball through his legs. “I got it here in my pocket.” Once, he let an opponent coast out to a 9–1 lead in a $50 game, then banged home ten consecutive buckets and laughed the loser all the way off the court. Another time, he beat a Grass Roots teammate while cradling the ball in one hand and a beer in the other; Justin sipped from his bottle after every basket.

There are no stories about him losing.

“Justin would play Michael Jordan one on one and think he could beat him,” Russell says. “That’s the kind of confidence the kid had. He had no fear.”

Talent made Justin a local celebrity, first in Mississauga and again in St. James Town. He was the big kid with the big game, big mouth, and famous big brother. Ascendant athletes always have more friends than they need, supporters who turn to sycophants the moment the first pro paycheque rolls in. Separating the selfish from the real is as valuable a skill as, say, a wicked jumpshot.

That was the gift Justin lacked. Audette would counsel her son: “I would say, ‘Justin, not everybody that comes around and calls you Shep and Sheep and all that stuff, they’re not all your friends. They have a different agenda, and you don’t know.’ He was so trusting.” It’s not that Justin rolled with the wrong crowd — but he knew where to find them, and they him.

In the fall of 1997, when Justin was in grade ten, he fought in a vicious brawl outside his high school. More than twenty kids were involved in the melee; one was beaten into a coma. Justin was convicted of assault and sentenced to four months in juvenile detention. Everyone close to him says he was wronged, singled out as a ringleader because of his size.

“When I asked he said he wasn’t in none of that; he wasn’t in no kind of gang,” says Junior Reid, a friend and former Grass Roots point guard. The two also played together at Oakwood Collegiate, winning a city championship with the junior varsity squad in 1998. Justin earned the title tourney’s MVP trophy. “People used to say Justin had an attitude,” Reid says, “but he was just getting to the point.”

Justin carried his on-court bravado to the malls and the clubs. He had an easy time attracting girlfriends, even when they were attached to someone else. If Justin didn’t like what Audette prepared for dinner, he would pick up the phone and summon an admirer to his doorstep within thirty minutes, take-out in hand.

At Eastern Commerce, the high school that prompted the move to St. James Town, Justin convinced the Saints’ coaches to take Jamaal’s jersey, number twenty-one, out of retirement for him. Friend and teammate Jermaine Anderson remembers hearing a story about the time Justin stood up from his desk and hollered at everyone to stop picking on the class nerd. The room fell, and stayed, silent.

Justin’s sentence overlapped with the following school year, keeping him out of Eastern’s fall semester. He served his four months at a youth facility near Brantford. Audette was a constant visitor. She could see how he hated being locked up, cut off from basketball, but he did his time without complaint.

The spring after Justin’s release, Jamaal graduated from Kentucky and declared for the NBA draft. As a high prospect, he was put in the running for free plane tickets for himself and his small entourage to attend the draft in Minneapolis. (The league traditionally extends such offers to its top sixteen projected picks.) Jamaal wanted Justin along for the ride if it came and had Audette force her son to a tailor for a suit fitting, just in case.

The tickets never did come. Instead, Jamaal rented a suite at the Royal York Hotel and invited everyone he knew over to watch the draft on television. He was selected by the Charlotte (now New Orleans) Hornets with the nineteenth pick of the first round. He is one of only three Canadians playing in the league this season.

Justin arrived at the party dressed in streetwear. The first time he wore his suit, he was in a casket.

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2001. This morning, Justin almost leaves St. James Town for good. His performance for Grass Roots attracted recruiters from four U.S. prep schools. The strongest pitch had come from one in small-town Maryland. Justin was planning to spend a year there pulling up his grades and game. Next, he would look to transfer to a Division 1 powerhouse like Kentucky. After that, Lord willing, he would have his chance at joining Jamaal in the NBA. The arrangements to leave were in Russell’s care, and the coach decided it was better to wait until Monday to give Justin a few last chances at Audette’s cooking.

It’s a cool day but clammy; flat clouds blot the sun. Justin idles away a long and lazy afternoon hooping at Bleecker. He dominates the ball, as usual, scoring when the mood strikes. There are no violent fouls, no arguments over money to be remembered later, to explain why it will be the last game he ever plays.

Justin has a girlfriend now, Latanya Langford. She’s from the neighbourhood, started seeing him about six months ago. They spend the evening together, lounging in the cement courtyard outside Justin’s building. All is as usual. Around 10 p.m., they go inside for dinner with Audette.

After midnight. Justin and Latanya are watching television when his cellphone rings. He has a short conversation with the caller. He tells Audette that he is leaving for ten minutes. Latanya asks him to take Grimy along for the walk. He refuses.

Outside is awake and popping, clusters of young bloods hanging about St. James Town’s plazas. Justin walks alone. His silhouette flips from front to back and back to front again under the streets’ round, low lamps. On Glen Road, where the last of the old neighbourhood’s houses tarry, two in three abandoned and boarded up, he passes an entrance to the Sherbourne subway stop, through a tunnel that runs below Bloor and onto the wood-and-metal footbridge that links St. James Town to Rosedale.

Leafy trees rise from the ravine below the bridge’s southern terminus, branches tucked close around its railings. Sherbourne’s towers rise in the distance behind. The view is clearer from Rosedale. Squat apartment buildings rest on either side of the bridge’s exit, dozens of windows looking back towards it. Glen Road, interrupted by the ravine, continues north, gateway to the land of the lawn and the Lexus. Crossing the bridge feels like walking through a movie lot and stepping from one city to another.

At this hour, the bridge is a private place. Overhead lights push at the shadows. The rush of cars from Bloor and the Rosedale Valley Road, which snakes through the ravine below, provides a persistent soundtrack; a whisper of wind is enough to carry the noise of voices off into the gloom. Justin walks no further. Someone or some group of people, his caller presumably among them, joins him in the dark.

Audette is already worrying when, just after 1 a.m., her phone rings. The call display shows “unknown name, unknown number.” She guesses it is Justin on his cell, but there is no one on the line when she picks up. (“I dialed his number back. There was no . . . no life,” she will say nearly two years later, a low tremble running through her voice. “I kept calling back. Even if he had answered” — here she will switch to mock anger — “‘Yes, Mom!’ or ‘Why you ringing down my phone, Mom?’ But nothing, nothing, nothing.”)

Gunshots thud into the night. Justin is nineteen years old and bleeding, two bullets in his head. At 1:10 a.m., a cyclist sees him lying prone on the bridge and calls 911. An ambulance speeds him to St. Michael’s Hospital, but he’s already dead.

A block south, Audette and Latanya walk around the neighbourhood, get into the dogmobile and drive to the club district, hoping to spot Justin or someone who has seen him waiting on line. Nothing. They return to Sherbourne. The locals they question outside Audette’s building say they saw three people running near the footbridge. Nothing special for a Friday night. The women go upstairs and tune the television to a closed-circuit channel broadcasting a video feed from the lobby. Audette waits until dawn for her son to come home.

ST. JAMES TOWN knows the bridge’s secrets. It knows who called Justin out, who met him there that night — who pointed a gun in his face and squeezed. The neighbourhood knows where his killers came from and where they ran to.

In the media coverage that followed the shooting, witnesses reported seeing one or three men in their teens or early twenties running on or near the bridge, getting into a tan or beige vehicle, possibly a station wagon, before speeding north into Rosedale or south toward St. James Town. The homicide squad offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. No one bit.

Two days after Justin’s murder, police announced that his shooting was not related to drugs or gangs. He had no public enemies. Audette has heard stories about another after-school fight, this time between two girls. One of the girl’s brothers jumped in, prompting Justin to intercede. The brother said something threatening as he stalked off, or so the story goes. Nothing special for teenagers. Justin’s friends wonder about some unknown, jilted boyfriend and whether Latanya was Justin’s only interest. “Justin was a chick magnet,” Grass Roots alumna Donnalee Grant says. “A lot of girls could have said they were his girlfriend. His whole life was girls and ball.” (Langford is “hiding out” in Mississauga, Audette says. They spoke a few times after Justin died, until Latanya stopped calling. Now, Audette says, she disconnects her phone and finds a new number any time the police come looking.) Justin had frequent on-court arguments, but so does every other playground baller.

A disputed call, his friends and family say, even one worth $100, feels like poor impetus for homicide. But no one rules out the possibility. “I’ve competed at every level, I’ve seen a lot of players,” Jamaal says. “There is no doubt in my mind that Justin would have been a star in the NBA. I can’t see any motive other than somebody trying to pull him down, trying to deter that from happening. Maybe it was jealousy, maybe envy, maybe hate.”

Coach Russell has heard the streets’ account of who shot Justin, and although he doesn’t know specific names — or what Justin could have done to put murder on their minds — he believes the killers “are these people who come from the Caribbean islands and give Caribbeans like myself a bad name. They have no scruples, no rationalization of what they do. If someone rubs them the wrong way, they’ll do whatever they want. They don’t care.”

Death transformed Justin from star to statistic: he was but one of 125 young black males murdered in Toronto between 1996 and 2002. Several commonalities link the killings, which represent almost one-third of the city’s total homicides over the same period. (According to a 2001 Statistics Canada community profile, blacks represent about eight percent of Toronto’s population.) Most happened in places where long-standing poverty breeds short-tempered desperation: St. James Town, the Jungle, Regent Park, the Jane-Finch corridor. Most involved firearms, typically the illegal handguns that have flooded Toronto’s streets over the last several years. Most are unsolved: three quarters of the cases — including Justin’s — are lost in the miasma of mistrust between police and those living in the neighbourhoods, mostly poor and mostly black. In many examples, both sides know who is responsible for the shootings, but the police often need witnesses to lay charges, and the witnesses often don’t want to talk to the police.

“We have some information that we believe is very credible that provides us with an understanding of what happened,” says Detective Graham Hanlon, the homicide investigator in charge of Justin’s case. “The unfortunate problem is that the people who can assist us in revealing the identity of the person responsible, and the rationale or the reason for why it happened, have chosen to remain silent.”

Hanlon is the sort of cop actors study to get into character: hard eyes, army-length crewcut, a bear’s chest. He has investigated more than twenty-five murders since joining the homicide division in 1999; he will not say how many of those murders has he solved. When we meet in an interrogation room at police headquarters, his tape recorder is twice as big as mine.

Hanlon’s investigation is still open, so there are many details he cannot discuss. He is unable to say whether his department traced the calls to Justin’s cellphone and Audette’s apartment, how many people were on the bridge that night, what kind of car the suspects drove (“I would just answer it by saying what we’re looking for is not a beige station wagon, but I’m not going to get into a description of what it is we’re looking for”) or why the killers might have wanted Justin dead. He confirms the department’s stance that drugs and gangs had nothing to do with the murder. (Justin’s friends and family all insist that he had no involvement with either. “He didn’t need to be,” Donnalee Grant says. “He had everything he could want.”) The distance between what Hanlon knows and what he can admit is palpable.

Soon after Justin died, Audette got word that a friend of his knew something important about the killers. She alerted Hanlon and urged the friend’s mother to go to the police. Early the following morning, though, a lawyer phoned Hanlon and told him the boy didn’t know anything and certainly wasn’t interested in speaking to the police.

MORE THAN a thousand mourners attended Justin’s funeral, spilling into the aisles at Toronto East Seventh Day Adventist Church north of the Danforth, on Westwood Avenue. Audette delivered a furious eulogy. “Father, let destruction come upon them,” she prayed. Next she addressed the killers directly: “Justice will be served. . . . If you think you’re going to run, you can’t hide because God will bring you out.” The assembly gave her a standing ovation.

“Not a day goes by that you don’t remember or feel pain. You wake up in the morning sometimes and you don’t want to get up,” Audette says. “People talk about time as a great healer. Every day is like it happened yesterday. Time is not healing anything for me.” Audette is a prayer leader at Seventh Day and credits her spirituality with keeping her alive. “That balcony [at 545 Sherbourne] would have looked real good to fly off of when I found out,” she says. “Life didn’t mean anything anymore.” Every second Monday, she attends meetings of U.M.O.V.E. (United Mothers Opposing Violence Everywhere), a support group for mothers of slain children, which she co-founded with help from the police’s community division.

Before the murder, with Justin heading to Maryland, she had seen no reason to stay on in St. James Town and already had a real estate agent looking for another home. She cancelled the search. Jamaal, meanwhile, plotted to move everything out of the Sherbourne apartment and into a new home he was going to buy for her while she was visiting her sister in England. Audette discovered the plan and ended it — if she moved too soon, she told him, she would never forget the bridge and its pull on her.

She stayed put for eighteen months, packing Justin’s room in stages. She kept his trophies and medals, his black Saints jersey, every picture she could find; she bundled his clothes and gave them to his friends when she felt ready to let go of them. She sent Grimy to a kid named Cory. She visited the dog once, taking a pair of Justin’s sweatpants for him to sniff. Grimy went wild at the scent. Audette hasn’t been back since.

“I often think about that night on the bridge,” she says. “When Justin left, did it ever cross his mind that he wouldn’t be coming back? What were his last thoughts? Did he try to call for me? Did he try to get up? I try to think about and understand how these people could run away and go home and see their moms and go in their beds and be normal.”

Last January, Audette finally moved to a bright and quiet townhouse in the borderlands between Scarborough and Pickering. She put most of the furniture from Sherbourne in storage but unpacked Justin’s things in an upstairs bedroom. His medals are on permanent display, dozens lining the wall above his bed. Trophies cover every inch of his dresser.

Audette treasures Jamaal’s visits when he is home but aches when she spots the similarities between his movements and Justin’s, or hears an echo of her son in his voice. She cannot spend Christmases at home and feels fresh wounds every time a holiday passes without a gift from Justin. She puts a flower on his grave almost every Sunday; it pains her to know that the killers’ mothers get bouquets on Mother’s Day and she doesn’t.

“I had anger,” Audette says, sitting at her kitchen table. “And one man in my church, he said to me, ‘Ms. Shephard, you need to let go of that anger. You need to try to forgive and move on and let God do his work.’ I changed my prayer. I said, ‘Lord, you lost your only son, too; you know the pain I’m going through.’ I said, ‘Help me to take this animosity out of my heart, help me take away the vengeance. You said that vengeance is yours, that you will repay me . . . ’ Whatever they sowed, they will reap. That day will come.”

Two Septembers ago, Justin’s family and friends gathered again at church for a service in his honour. After Audette stood up and announced a scholarship in Justin’s name, Jamaal, seated beside her, leaned over and pledged to double the reward for Justin’s killers to $100,000. A year and a half later, his money waits in escrow, unclaimed.

© 2004, Matthew McKinnon

    Matthew McKinnon

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    I used to be a writer. I still am, but used to be, too

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