By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
"It was around that time that this orgy of death began," he says. "We certainly never had any students killed — until all of a sudden, it was happening every other month."
November 29, 2005: Evan Page
Evan's mom, Rhonda, struggled with schizophrenia, and his father defied positive paternity tests. So the polite kid, something of a loner and driven by private ambitions, was raised by his grandmother, Luella. Mama, as the boy called the talkative, quick-to-confide older woman, raised her grandson from infanthood; his was the only young face in her barracks-like Miami Gardens retirement complex.
Luella, the mother of four girls, came to see him as the son she always wanted. She recalls a doting grandson who made her pancakes in the morning, taught her to drive, and accompanied her to church. "He was my grandson, he was my son, he was my little friend," Luella says. "I just miss him so much."
Evan was an above-average student, but he was more absorbed in his after-school pastime. On afternoons and weekends, he donned a gray cadet's uniform and participated in the Police Explorers program, a law enforcement training camp where he learned radio codes, rode with cops, and issued traffic citations.
At 9:45 on a Tuesday night in 2005, he was sitting in the passenger seat of a friend's car, waiting to place his order at the drive-thru window of a Miami Gardens Drive Checkers. A 20-something stick-up kid wearing a black T-shirt and brandishing a pistol ran up and demanded valuables, starting with the teenager's gold crucifix and a ring.
Instead, the Carol City student jumped from the car and tackled the thug by the legs. It was not a good choice. The robber shot Evan through the armpit three times, and he died at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
No witnesses came forward. The cops have not arrested a suspect. For weeks after the murder, Carol City high students wore "R.I.P. Evan" T-shirts.
Luella, though, has become obsessed with her grandson's death. On a recent gusty morning, she sits in a straight-back chair on her porch and shows a ragged, spiral-bound notebook packed with scrawled detectives' phone numbers and questionable leads.
There are clothing receipts, unsigned love letters, and photos of Evan with men she never met, all of them excavated from his bedroom. "I just think that if somebody could pay for this crime," Luella explains, "I could get a little peace."
She harbors a hateful suspicion of Joseph Guy, the 29-year-old man who was with Evan in the car that night. Though police insist Guy had nothing to do with the crime, she phones him often late at night. "I press *67 before I call him so he won't see it's me," she declares matter-of-factly. "I ask him: 'Are you ready to come clean? Are you ready to tell me what happened that Tuesday night?'"
Despite a segment on America's Most Wanted, Evan's case appears hopelessly cold. Evan's younger brother, Ronald, now a Miami Central High junior, is unequivocal when asked whether the police have been diligent in solving his brother's murder. "No," he says flatly. "Make sure you put an exclamation mark after that."
April 29, 2006: Sharika Wilson Lynch
That spring, 19-year-old Sharika was on hiatus from Carol City High for the first year of her baby girl Ahamani's life. "Oh, she was going back," assures Doris Lynch, the grandmother who raised her. "She had me to answer to otherwise."
Like Evan, Sharika had been dealt a bad hand. Her mother, Sarita, landed in prison for the first of three terms for cocaine possession when Sharika was still toddling. Her father, Daniel, a "woman-chaser," as his mother Doris puts it, had seven kids by different mothers and succumbed to AIDS when Sharika was 17. The slack was picked up by Doris, widow of one of Opa-locka's most successful African-American merchants and landowners.
In her second-floor room, the buoyant Sharika blasted D'Angelo and spent hours coordinating outfits that matched sneaker shoelaces, tank tops, and the dyed tips of audaciously coiffed hair. She reveled in her popularity with guys and wasn't unhappy when she became pregnant by a Carol City High boyfriend in January 2005. "She was a loving girl," Doris says. "She never caused me any problems."
After spending an entire Thursday lying in bed at her grandmother's house, stricken by a headache and stupored by court television, she headed to the corner store for milk and aspirin. "She wanted to get out of the house," Doris remembers. "She said, 'It's just down the street.'"
Her destination was the Imperial Market, a bulletproofed bunker of a corner store, once owned by her grandparents, in the heart of the Triangle, Opa-locka's most dangerous sector. The nine-block firefight-scoured war zone has been nearly abandoned by any enterprise without a malt liquor bottle or a pastor's name painted on it.
Sharika was on her way home when a car cruised by and gunfire exploded from it. The man in front of her, 31-year-old Antwan Jones, a convicted coke dealer and the likely target, was hit several times and killed.
One fatal bullet struck Sharika in the heart.