Mothers go inside prison walls to save lives on the outside

The two women in jeans and black and pink t-shirts march into the Western Missouri Correctional Center, looking as though they know their way around.

Which they do. Rosilyn Temple and Latrice Murray have the routine down pat. They produce the proper ID’s, joke with the front-entrance staff and accept a golf-cart escort through the courtyard of the medium-security prison in Cameron, MO.

Inside one of the squat buildings they find about 25 men in gray prison dress sitting in rows of chairs. Temple and Murray set about attaching poster-sized photos to the wood-paneled walls in the front.

An inmate facilitator introduces Temple first. “This is a young lady who traveled the roads that we’ve traveled,” he tells the men, all of whom are scheduled for release from incarceration in the weeks to come.

Temple faces the group. “I’m tired,” she says. “I didn’t get much sleep last night. I’m here because God is in control of my life.”

Many people in Kansas City and beyond have heard Temple tell her story of grief and then renewal following the 2011 death of her son, PeeWee. Fewer people have heard her speak of an earlier period in her life, the one she’s telling the men about now.

“I’ve been in the places you’ve been,” Temple says. “Well, not here in Cameron, with the men. But in the women’s prison.”

Her first stop was in the 1980’s, when repeated drug-related arrests landed her in the Chillicothe Correctional Center. She was inmate No. 3548. After her release she stayed clean and sober for five years.

“The one thing I thought I wanted to do was to drink a beer,” Temple tells her audience. “So I started to drink on the weekends.” She chuckles. So do some of the men. They know where this is going.

An arrest on check-cashing fraud landed her a 120-day stay in the women’s prison in Valdalia, MO. When she was discharged, Temple says, “I knew I had to get myself together. I turned myself over to God.”

That new-found faith helped her survive the loss of her son on Thanksgiving eve seven years ago, Temple says. She recounts the uneasiness she felt when she couldn’t contact him that day, and the horror and grief she experienced when a police officer who entered his apartment returned outside and told her, “He’s in there. He’s been murdered.”

“I’m just a mom who has lost her child,” Temple tells her audience. She urges the men to learn to deal with conflict and break the cycle of violence.

“Whatever beef or loyalty you got going on, leave it alone. Leave it behind these walls,” she implores them.

Temple turns to the posters on the walls. They bear the photographs of Mothers in Charge members who have also lost children to homicide. Temple briefly talks about their stories.

When she is finished, Murray gets up and tells the men about her son, Darreon Murray-Brown, who was murdered in 2009 while riding in a car with friends. He was a senior basketball player at Hogan Prep High School with plans to attend college. As is the case with Temple’s son, Darreon’s murder has not been solved.


“I blame myself,” an emotional Murray tells the men. “Cause he called me that night and said, ‘do you want me to come home?’ If I had told him to come home he wouldn’t have been killed.”

Talking about Darreon’s death relieves some of that burden, she said. “I know I didn’t kill my son. Someone else killed my son. I think the more I share, the less weight I carry around.”

The men listen attentively and respectfully to both women, as well as to prerecorded testimonials from other mothers who have lost their sons. There is no opportunity for one-on-one conversations. The inmates offer a quick burst of applause for the presentation and then Temple and Murray are off -- back on the golf cart through the courtyard, through the front security system and back on the highway headed toward Kansas City.

“They’re eventually coming home to our communities. So we try to speak life into them,” Temple says.

“Me being a two-time felon -- they see that I’ve been through some things. I’ve lived through this. I’ve been to prison, did some calendar years in prison and got out, reoffended and went back. But look at me, I’ve changed my life. I was able to surrender my life to God prior to my son being murdered. They connect so well by knowing I have walked in their shoes.”

Temple and Murray receive no compensation for these monthly visits to Cameron, which take up a morning’s time. But they are clear about their ultimate reward.

“The best thing that could come out of this,” Temple says, “is that we save someone’s life.”


Female Homicidies

Here it is, late April, and so far this year we’ve had 11 women killed in Kansas City. Most of these women were killed at the hands of people they know -- boyfriends, baby daddies, husbands. Even family members are killing other family members.

I am beyond frustrated by this. It’s like, we’ve already allowed children to be killed. Now we’re becoming OK with women being murdered. Young women. These are women who would someday become mothers, aunts, grandmothers...women who would contribute to society and our community. We’ll never get the chance with them. It’s always at the hands of a man, and it’s almost always gun violence.

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We know that people have issues. They have mental health issues, drug addiction, trauma. We see it and we tend to turn our head, because it’s not directly our problem. We need to stop doing that. If you look around your neighborhood and see that people are having issues, we need to start reporting it or try to reach out and get them some help in some way.

A few weeks ago another young woman was killed by her baby daddy. He just kills her, in broad daylight, around 10:30 in the morning. Were there any issues with this couple? As family members and as a community, we need to start finding out more about these young women and getting them some better help. People always say, “she should have left.” Well, I never think if I’m in a relationship that someone is going to kill me. You don’t think the person who says he loves you, that you have children with, is going to take your life.

At one of the murder scenes, I asked family members if they had seen warning signs. They said, yes, they did. They told her several times she should get away. But as women, we always make excuses for our lover, our family member, our child. We tend to try to fix things.

I was in an abusive relationship myself, some years ago. He beat me, he broke all my windows, he mentally tortured me. I got an order of protection and I did everything that the police department and the law told me to do and finally he went to prison for five years. So I can see the signs. I know the signs, because I’ve been there. That time of my life -- it was in the early 2000’s, I’ve just blocked out. But I’m afraid he’s doing the same thing to somebody else because prison does not rehabilitate men like that.

As far as domestic violence, the community response should be outraged. Children are seeing this. What do you think this is doing to them? And yet our response is to go on like nothing has happened. These children grow up to be young men and young women and they grow up with this trauma. We need to reach out to the children who have been affected by this madness and try to mentor them and guide them and let them know what normal life should be. Otherwise all this trauma, all this anger, it ends up being a homicide sometime later. That’s what it becomes -- another homicide.


The agony of losing a child: For Dominic Young Jr. and others taken too soon.


When I get a call at 2 o'clock in the morning and the sergeant of homicide tells me a child has been killed or a young child has been hurt and is in the hospital, my heart just drops. My son was 26 years old when he was murdered and I’ve never gotten over it. But when a child, who has not even gotten to the teen years, is shot or otherwise killed, that breaks my heart.

So when that happens, the first person I look for is the mother. I know she needs a hug from me. I need to give her that hug because I know where her heart and her mind is at right now. You just just can't process at that time. You're just stuck. When you bring a child into this world that's pain that you can't describe. And when that child is taken away senselessly like that, that's more pain that you can't describe.

I work closely with the family. I want to advocate for the mom. She needs a voice to be there for her. When a child dies, the mothering instinct kicks in. She wants her baby taken care of, but she doesn't know how to do that. We don't know how to bury a child. It's senseless, so senseless. But one thing you want... “I want to see my baby.” That's what I hear from the moms. And as a mother myself, I know.

When you work closely with families and that mother, you see how people kind of run circles around them. I'm not saying it's intentional, but it happens. Sometimes we want to make it about the adults instead of about the child. We need to get back to thinking about the child, because the community needs to be angry and frustrated and tired because little babies are being killed for no apparent reason. Then you think about the people that committed this crime. Do they even care? Who is responsible? We as a community are responsible for taking care of our children.

I think about that little boy, Dominic Young Jr., the boy who was killed near 71 Highway in a drive-by shooting. People will say, “Oh, God called that child home." No, God didn't. Murder is not an act of God. That child will be in the arms of God, but God does not call his children home with gunfire.

I'm going to talk about this. We failed Dominic and we failed many other children. This community allowed that child's life to be shortened. And we're still silent today. What is it going to take? How many children do we allow to be killed in our community by gun violence?

We need people to speak out and face these perpetrators down, because they are cowards. When we get bold enough, we will push them out of our community. Here in Kansas City, where I was born and raised, we are crying out for help. It's going to take some of us with the courage to stand and come together. It's like the preacher said at Dominic's service. He said, "y'all want to say that black lives matter. Yeah, black lives matter, but we don't make them matter.” I wanted to shout out in the church, because he is right.


How I took charge of my health, lost 30 pounds and became better at my work


People always come up to me and say, "You need to slow down, stop doing this, stop doing that." Even I am amazed sometimes to look at my calendar. Some days I have three speaking engagements or five or six meetings in one day. I'll be like, "How am I going to get through this week?" But I know that God gave me this purpose so he's not going to put too much more on me than I can bear.

But for many years I have been diagnosed with a heart condition. And I wasn't taking care of myself. I was taking in everybody's problems and not eating right. Sometimes I would go all day without eating. Then I'd go home at night and eat the wrong foods and just lie down. I was finding myself stressed out, taking everything that was dumped in my lap, and finding myself in the hospital three or four times a year.

Last year I looked at myself, looked at my weight and said, "You know, enough is enough." I was tired of me. I knew I had to get healthy for my community, for my children. I've got grandchildren now. And I needed to get healthy for myself. I want to feel good. So I started working out and eating better.

I quit smoking cigarettes in 2013 and that was a big thing. I stopped cold turkey. I haven't drunk pop in over three years. And now I've given up fried foods. I'll have something like turkey instead. Like yesterday, I was at home, I had a baked potato and some broccoli. I use a butter with olive oil. If I want a snack I'll cut up an apple.

Before, I  graduated from cardio rehab, the exercise program, a couple of times. I never really wanted to be there. I would go and play around a lot and do a lot of kid stuff in there. So last year I went to my doctor and asked if I could come back and get serious. Of course he said yes.

Rehab is three days a week. I knew I had to be in a program, because that's the only way I'm going to be able to resolve the problem, to make it a mandatory thing. So I've been working out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings -- even times when I'm tired from being called to  a homicide scene at night. I still go in that morning at 7:30 and work out at least for an hour.

And I can see the scale going down. I was able to tuck in my shirt. I used to put on a bracelet and it would be really tight. Now it just kind of falls down. As the scale went down some more I started feeling healthy. I'm not tired. I've got more energy. And I found out that when I'm stressed out, just from everyday things or the work I do, if I can work out, I'll get unstressed.

I work out on the treadmill. For me, it's the sweat. I put on my head phones and plug in some Gospel music and I'm in my own zone. I do like 35 or 40 minutes. I do some weights and some arm exercises. People want to know how much weight I've lost. Thirty pounds. I haven't been at this weight since, like, I was in my 20's.

Now I know that working out and eating healthy is the best thing to do. Being healthy makes your thought process better. It makes you love yourself a little better.

So now I want to incorporate that with KC Mothers in Charge. I'd like to offer some kind of workout program for our mothers and families. I hope we can get someone to donate their time and resources. My thing is giving back. When you lose a child, your heart is broken. I've learned that working out and being healthy is a way to healing.

Reward Funds

Recently a question came up about KC Mothers in Charge and whether we offer reward funds, to help solve crimes. We don’t, and I’d like to say a little bit about that.

My son PeeWee was killed in 2011, on Thanksgiving Eve. The reward fund from the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission went for $1,000 for information that would lead police to solve my son’s murder. Nothing ever materialized and I never sought any more reward funds, because I know that money is not going to make this community talk. We have to want to talk. I was thankful for the Crime Commission for putting up the $1,000 dollars, but I didn’t seek any  more money.

At KC Mothers in Charge, our goal is not to give money for rewards. It’s to get the answers to solve homicides. To get people off the streets. To get them help. Sometimes it’s to get a grieving mother or father to breathe for a few moments.

We’re a non-profit organization and we don’t have the means or the rights to donate to reward funds. We do anything we can to help families. When a homicide occurs we are there. After a homicide I will come to your home and help you in any way you can. I walk families through the funeral process and direct them to the right source to apply for Crime Victims’ Compensation.

Our mission is what it’s always been -- to stand by the families and to try to reduce violence.  I just want people to understand what we do and who we are.    

Two bloody July Weekends in Kansas City

I don’t look forward to holiday weekends anymore, because of all the shooting and killing. This 4th of July weekend, we had three homicide victims and seven more shooting victims.

It started Saturday night around 9:30 p.m. There was a homicide in the 1600 block of East 80th Street, they found someone shot to death in a car. I was called to that. Then I was called again, to 28th Terrace and Myrtle. There were two men laid out on the street, murdered. Three people dead in no more than an hour’s time. That was how our 4th of July weekend began. And all of the shooting. You can tell the difference between fireworks and a gun. People were shooting more guns than there were fireworks.

Later, on Sunday morning, I was getting ready to go to a Royals game. KC Mothers in Charge got tickets donated. I was almost ready to walk out of my house and I got a call from a family member, screaming. A family I’ve been knowing most of all my life.

It was my grandchildren’s cousin who had been shot. He had been shot once in the head. He was in a car and three people had been shot. Family members were at Research Hospital, so I immediately forfeited the game because I had to go and be with this family.

I arrived at Research Medical Center, family was everywhere. I found the mother and started praying. Then the doctor came and told her that her son was OK, but not OK, and he would be going into surgery about 5 o’clock that evening. So I had been at the hospital for hours and I was getting ready to go home. Another mother I knew was there and she said her son had been shot too, off of 73rd and Walrond. So we had 3 homicides at that point of time, and 7 shooting victims.

All three of the homicide victims were from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I don’t know what happened, why they were here, but they got killed in Kansas City. And that bothered me, because I know that some mother, some family is hurting. All the way from  KC to Tulsa, I wanted to reach out and give my condolences.  They were someone’s father, someone’s child. They were someone.

Later on, on 4th of July evening, my neighbors and I were sitting on our porches, we were kind of doing a neighborhood watch.   My neighbor called me and said, “I called 911, can you also call 911? They are shooting at the end of the street.” The police came out.  Later on that night, I talked to my auntie, who lives in Raytown, and she said, “this is ridiculous.” There was so much shooting. It’s out of control. We’re making it like it’s normal for people to shoot guns.

The next weekend, I was called Friday night for a homicide that happened at 99th and Holmes. Thirty minutes after that there was another homicide at Bannister and McGee. Someone was murdered. Later on Saturday night I got a call about a shooting in Swope Park. It was a homicide, a woman shot a man. It was a family picnic gathering, but she did turn herself in.

Then this morning (Monday, July 10), I want to say around 1:45 a.m., I was called for a homicide at Blue Parkway at the Burger King, someone was murdered in his car. I can’t imagine how many shootings we had this weekend but we had four homicides. Four lives taken this weekend. The thing that really scares me is, it could happen to me again. It could be another family member of mine. Every African American mother in the city worries about that.

These children in our community have no filter. They can’t deal with conflict, they have no way to talk to each other. They don’t know how to walk away from things, or agree to disagree.

We as African American people, we don’t come together, I have no problem with saying that. We need to stand together for the right things. It starts in our homes with our children, grandchildren and family members, guiding them to do the right things and telling them enough is enough. At some point we have to say “ENOUGH,” because we are destroying each other.


Darryl Forte, the community’s police chief

(Editor’s note: Rosilyn Temple is the executive director of KC Mothers in Charge. Darryl Forte became chief of police approximately six weeks before Rosilyn’s son, Pee Wee, was found murdered on Thanksgiving Eve, 2011. They have worked together from that time on.)


It was right around the time my son Pee Wee was killed in 2011 when I started hearing that Kansas City had a new police chief and this chief of police was coming out to every homicide scene.  I remember thinking this was something really lacking in our community. I knew I had to meet this chief.

I finally got myself a little bit together after my son’s death and called the chief’s assistant, Liz. She’s still there. I told her who I was and said I wanted a meeting Chief  Darryl Forte. She said, I’m gonna call you back when I have a day and time for you to meet him.  And I just kept calling back every day.  And she said, Ms. Temple, “I promise I will call you back.” Finally she called me and said I had an appointment with the chief. I went in, I said, “My name is Rosilyn Temple. My son was Antonio Thompson, known as PeeWee. He was murdered Thanksgiving Eve.” I said, “I want to go to the homicide scene to support the families of other victims, and the police department because I know what they’re going through.”  And he said, “I’ve been looking for someone like you.”

Chief Forte gave me an opportunity to give back to my community, to the police department, to families. People look at me and say: opportunity? Because it is hard to be around so much death and grief. But to me, it is an opportunity. To stand and be that person who has been through it and knows how it feels. And to say “We care.”

I remember the chief driving by my house one Saturday morning. I was going out to my car when he drove by and honked his horn. People said, “That’s the chief of police.” That made me feel so safe, to have him present in my neighborhood.”

I was at a homicide scene one night and I see this motorcycle. And it kept getting closer and closer. And I was like, what’s this motorcycle doing? It drove right up to me. And this guy says, “It’s me. It’s the chief.” It makes me laugh to think about that.

I found out he was retiring through the media. I was hurt because he was from this community, he loves this community, he was a community chief. But then I thought, he worked hard. He wants to be with his family. He deserves to live his life. So now what I say is: Well done, good and faithful servant, Chief Darryl Forte.

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A Bittersweet Birthday Celebration

By Latrice Murray

(Editor’s note: Latrice Murray is a core member and volunteer for KC Mothers in Charge. Her son, Darreon Murray, was a senior and star basketball player for Hogan Prep High School when he was murdered on March 7, 2009. Darreon was in a vehicle with three friends when someone shot into it. One young man was paralyzed and two were physically unharmed. The murder has not been solved.)

Latrice Murray Sharing about her son Darreon Murray

Latrice Murray Sharing about her son Darreon Murray

On March 18 we got together at Blue Ridge Lawn Cemetery for the birthday of my son, Darreon Murray.

You know, it was kind of bittersweet. On March 7 it was eight years since he was killed. I didn’t do anything to observe that. Then came his birthday. It’s hard to rebound from the 7th to the 18, but I decided to have a birthday celebration to celebrate Darreon’s life and his memories and have my family and friends come together. It’s hard for them just like it’s hard for me.

So we gathered at the cemetery where he’s buried. We went over some of the memories, some of the good times, some of the crazy things he would say and do. We talked about missing him and we just kind of came together as a family.

Darreon, he was very open to people. He loved being around people. He was just kind of laid back, the class clown. He was a pretty good kid, I never had any trouble with him. He was respectful of his elders and very, very well mannered.

He loved basketball. He’d been playing since he was 3. He played for Hogan Prep for four years. He played all summer. He played for the YMCA, all the summer leagues. Basketball was his life. He had so many trophies. But that wasn’t why he wanted to go to college. He had several scholarship offers, he wanted to study architecture. He hadn’t said anything but I think he was working to get his scores up so he could go to MU. That’s a big reason why my daughter went to MU.

The day of the celebration it was nice and sunny. We released 26 red balloons, because that’s how old Darreon would be. I had bought a extra balloon that sings Happy Birthday when the wind blows. We had cupcakes --with red icing and emojis. There were maybe 25 people there. It was a nice crowd.

I felt a kind of peace come over me. It felt real good ‘cause I told him I wasn’t gonna be sad on that day. I said, we gonna celebrate like he’s here. On this one day, we’re not gonna be sad.

Family and friends celebrating Darreon Murray's 26th Birthday

Family and friends celebrating Darreon Murray's 26th Birthday

Remembering Donta, 11 years later

Donta's mother, family and friends gather to celebrate his life

Donta's mother, family and friends gather to celebrate his life

Last week we did an anniversary vigil on behalf of Jennifer Webb, one of our core mothers. She has joined KC Mothers in Charge and she does the work for us every day in the community to save someone else’s child’s life.

family and friends surrouding donta with love

family and friends surrouding donta with love

March 1 marked the 11-year anniversary of the murder of Jennifer’s son, Donta Gadison. He was killed at age 21 in front of Snack Pack, a convenience store over in Kansas City, Kansas, 1705 Parallel Parkway. The case is still unsolved.  

KC Mothers in Charge does anniversary vigils for our mothers and for anyone in the community on the date that someone was lost, or on their birthday. We go out to the scene and we do a vigil, a celebration of life. We have a balloon release and we have food. Last week, the Snack Pack store donated food.

Donta’s mother, Jennifer, spoke about losing and missing her son, and about joining our organization. She talked about how protective we mothers become after losing a child. Even our other children don’t understand when we try to tell them of that hole we have in our hearts. We have lost a child and we don’t want to go through that again. We understand how fragile life is. We see how no one has respect for each other, how people are just so easy to kill each other, how this younger generation does not have a thinking process, they just act off of impulse. Instead of talking things out they just take a gun and kill each other. They don’t think about how it tears up a family. It tears up a community.

We released balloons, people hugged and talked. We remembered Donta. He lived in our community and we have not forgotten him.

Donta was a funny person. He loved his family. He was Jennifer’s oldest child. He was the life of the family. When he was taken away she has really changed. People don’t realize how our life changes forever after losing a child. Things that used to be normal aren’t normal any more. We are trying to find our new norm.

I remember something Jennifer said at the vigil: “Justice for Donta.” Not for her, justice for Donta.  I thought about this a couple of days ago, because I have also lost a child to homicide. I want justice for Pee Wee, my son. It’s not about me, it’s about him. Justice for our children. We still have hope for this to happen.

A canvassing event produces a missing key

KC Mothers In Charge Canvasses for Nicholas Walker

On Saturday February 11, KC Mothers in Charge canvassed for Nicholas Walker. He was found murdered in a car Dec. 19, 2015, at 6th and Elmwood.

His sister reached out to me. More than a year had gone by and there were no charges. I asked if she had talked to homicide and she said yes, she had talked to the homicide detective and they were doing what they were supposed to do. But she wondered if we could do something more.

We had done a vigil after Nicholas was murdered in 2015. But sometimes people are less afraid after some time has passed. So we met the family up there in the Northeast at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a good event. We had media out there. The family brought a lot of people. Altogether, we had more than 25 people out there.

The community was receptive. One person came and said she had keys. She gave me keys she had found around the time of the homicide. People gave names, they gave phone numbers, they wanted to talk to the detectives.

Canvassing is great. My mothers enjoy it.  There were nine or ten of us out there. It was great for the community. People were stopping in cars and they were just so receptive to us. They care.

The keys belonged to the car that Nicholas was found in. A lady had picked them up that day and never did turn them in.  She said, well, the police were supposed to come back out.  She should have just called the Kansas City Police Department. They would have come right out.  As a community we have to turn up our thinking cap a little bit more. No disrespect meant, but what would you do if it was your loved one? Wouldn’t you want information to get to the police department?

I called the homicide sergeant that evening on my way home from canvassing and I said, “I think I’ve got the keys to the car you all have been looking for.” He said, “you are kidding me. We’ve been looking for those keys forever.” I took them down to him the next day. Having those keys with me, it felt good. I thought, I may be holding something that will help solve a homicide.

Losing Warren

Warren G. Jackson III

On Saturday morning (Jan. 28, 2017) I was called for a homicide on East 29th Street. The homicide had occurred around 5 o’clock in the morning. There was no family out there and I was told we had just had another homicide -- there was a shooting Friday night and the victim had just passed. I went home and a little while later I got a call from the police sergeant saying they really needed me to get to the hospital, asap, as quickly as I could.

When I got to the hospital I found the family of Warren Jackson. They were having a really rough time finding out that he had passed. I spoke with the father, aunt and sister. I knew the aunt. She works at a store that I constantly shop at. But she had lost another nephew to homicide and I was at that scene also. Warren’s mother died years ago, but his father’s second wife just passed in October or so.

They were really in a bad situation. The father was crying. The sister was in shock. What I do is, I pray with them. We joined hands and hugged and I prayed for God to give them strength. That helped them to calm down, knowing that God was in control. Murder isn’t an act of God, but God is in control. I asked the father where he lived. He gave me his address and I told them I would come by when they left the hospital. There wasn’t anything else they could do at the hospital.  

I got to the house and other family members were coming by. There were a lot of emotions because this was a good child. Never been in trouble. The father was really, really upset, crying. I was giving them Kleenex, just letting them know I’m here. Letting them know I’ve been in this same place before.  

Warren was 23. He graduated from a charter school called Hope Academy. They called him “Little Daddy.” He detailed cars. He just wanted to hang out with his cousins that evening. He’d gotten paid, he’d worked hard all week and he wanted to hang out. He was the youngest son and he had 13 older siblings.

I’ve been with the family every day this week. Monday evening I called the father. He was in pretty bad shape so I went over. We just sat and talked. I told him I understood, because I lost my own son to homicide. We talked a lot about religion, how we have to hold on to God and ask God for strength. We talked about things we did in the past and how we became better parents to our children. I think I sat there for an hour and talked to him.

The other night Warren’s auntie came by my house. I was talking to her on the phone and she said she was tired of chicken, you know, people always bring chicken by the house. I said, “you know, I normally don’t cook, but today I cooked some beans”. She said, “I love beans.” So Warren’s auntie came by my house that evening and we sat down and talked for a while longer. She took some beans with her and some for Warren’s father. And the next thing I know I was called for another homicide.