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
Today, Sarita has stepped up to take care of her orphaned granddaughter, a smart, talkative 4-year-old who replies casually that her mother is in "the sky." Sharika's old room was nailed shut after a termite attack, and her diaries, school papers, and Dwyane Wade posters are tucked into boxes in a garage.
The Imperial Market has closed, and despite the 60 to 70 potential witnesses, by a police spokesperson's estimation, cops again found little cooperation. "Oh, they saw who it is," Doris says. "They're just scared."
After Evan's and Sharika's murders, the grief was unnaturally muted at Carol City High. Even as county crisis counselors became campus fixtures, the school mood fell somewhere between dogged coping and outright denial. "It got to be very somber in the school," says social studies teacher Moore. "There was this great sense of communal shock."
May 21-26, 2006: Jeffrey Johnson Jr.
Jeffrey was not only a would-be Johnnie Cochran but also Carol City's most visible student and seemingly preordained for great success. His murder tore open the school's emotional wound. "That rocked everybody, because everybody knew Jeffrey," says his closest friend, Genevieve. "Boys that weren't doing so well looked up Jeffrey was not only a would-be Johnnie Cochran but also Carol City's most visible student and seemingly preordained for great success. His murder tore open the school's emotional wound. "That rocked everybody, because everybody knew Jeffrey," says his closest friend, Genevieve. "Boys that weren't doing so well looked up to him, because here was a cool kid that was accomplishing everything. Then to have him killed over a car was just devastating. Even teachers didn't know what to say."
Because of the timing, Jeffrey's memorial services and the class graduation seemed to merge into one weeklong ceremony, marked by emotion at once celebratory and funereal.
The Tuesday after the shooting, Miami-Dade County Auditorium was packed with an estimated 3,000 people, hundreds standing against the back walls. Fifty of Jeffrey Jr.'s family members had been given tickets and shuttled there on a bus provided by Kendrick Meek. Three seats were left unoccupied for Jeffrey, Sharika, and Evan.
Jeffrey Sr., who owns a carpet and window treatment business, donned his son's graduation robe and took his spot in the ceremony. He steadied Genevieve, who accepted her diploma in the spot in front of him. When Jeffrey Jr.'s name was announced, the crowd erupted into a standing ovation as his favorite song, "Chevy Ridin' High," by Carol City High alum Rick Ross, blasted over speakers.
"He worked his whole life to pick up his own diploma," Jeffrey Sr. says. "It was real hard for me to do it for him."
At the memorial in the school auditorium, an impassioned Moore made a speech that spoke to the hopelessness many of his students were feeling. "So, the body of a young man who thought he could make a difference lies before us today. Shall we add his name to the long and growing list of young people felled by senseless violence and be done with it?" he asked before urging the inverse: "Figure out who is pulling the strings in this hostile world you are being asked to live in... Then go pick a fight with injustice, poverty, racism, and war. If you do it from the heart, Jeffrey will be right there at your side."
October 29, 2006: Jennifer Branden
Not until arbitrary death continued to stalk the class of 2006 after graduation did the notion of a "curse" arise. In the fall, 18-year-old Jennifer was pummeled by a black Hummer H3 as she crossed the road on the downtrodden 2900 block of Opa-locka's NW 191st Street. The Carol City honor roll student, who was working at Denny's as she saved up for college, flew 250 feet and was killed. She had been absorbed in a cell phone conversation when the SUV hit, and the local pastor at the wheel was never charged.
January 4, 2007: Anthony Elias
The superstition was solidified when 17-year-old Anthony — or "Yellowman," as he was known for his mulatto complexion — followed his slain classmates. He had an unflappable persona that earned him comparisons to Snoop Dogg: personable, aloof, and effortless. "He was a cool, laid-back cat," says Tim Wilson, a 2006 senior who lived near Anthony's Miami Gardens home. He respected Anthony for working afternoons and weekends in a Florida Power & Light uniform, checking meters: "He was about his money."
"He was a very quiet, unpretentious, above-average student who made an effort to do what was right," says Eric Hafter, who taught Anthony American history. Other teachers knew him as silent but not sullen, a kid who slouched in his chair and simply observed but always had a correct answer or a witty riposte when called on. He was handsome, and says one teacher, "he always got a lot of attention from girls, and he just let it come to him."
On a clear, brisk Thursday, seven months after the 2006 graduation, Anthony Elias was in front of 23-year-old friend Andrew Allen's home, at 7501 Grandview Blvd. They were working on the engine of Andrew's car. A neighbor heard the squeal of tires and what she thought at first to be leftover New Year's fireworks. Then she stepped outside and saw the two bodies slumped on the curb.