The Curse

Six students in Carol City High's tragic class of 2006 were murdered. Hope survives.

On a Tuesday in November 2007, algebra teacher Sergio Miranda took a smoke break outside, across a chainlink fence from a neighboring housing project. A robber ran up to Miranda, a soft-spoken 43-year-old immigrant six years removed from the Cuban lottery, and shot him in the side in a bid for the teacher's wallet. As the kids watched on TV sets in locked-down classrooms, the cops tracked down Patrick Lively, an 18-year-old violent felon.

Fifteen months after the shooting, Miranda's legs heal in plastic sheaths as he rests at his home in Hialeah, earning two-thirds of his salary. "I want to go right back to teaching when I heal," he vows, but he'll find a more concealed spot to puff his Capri 120s.

Three days after this past Christmas, 15-year-old sophomore Zachary Mitchell was killed and his 17-year-old brother Deondre Bain wounded when they were hit by bullets in a drive-by in front of their Miami Gardens home. Although cops have yet to release many details, rumors say it might have been a payback shooting, with Deondre as the intended target.

Jeffrey Johnson Jr. looks tough in a tux.
Photo courtesy of the Johnson family
Jeffrey Johnson Jr. looks tough in a tux.

Just down the block from the recently dedicated Jeffrey Lamar Johnson Jr. Boulevard, its slain namesake's Monte Carlo collects carburetor dust in his father's driveway. "I ain't ever going to sell it," Jeffrey Sr. says after lamenting the dent he put in its side. He drives it only to keep it running, and at annual Stop the Violence parades. "It just means everything to me."

Jeffrey Sr. has turned his home and wardrobe into a shrine. He has wallpapered his bedroom with school photos of his son from preschool to the year he died, and every day he wears a T-shirt with his son's photo on it: "I got about 50 of them." He wears Jeffrey Jr.'s chunky blue class ring on his finger. He has made his house an eyesore by slathering it with orange and gold — his son's favorite colors.

Jeffrey's sister, Jarrika, graduated in the top two percentile in her St. Thomas University class with his transferred scholarship. She's now at Florida A&M, studying for a doctorate in pharmacy. "That's the only thing that keeps me going," says Dad. "I used to live for Jeffrey's success. Now I live for Jarrika's."

The slain honor student's other "sister," Genevieve, has continued to overachieve. Armed with loads of college hours taken while still at Carol City, she'll receive her bachelor's in psychology, with minors in journalism and philosophy, from University of Miami this spring.

Then she'll attend UM for a law degree. She hopes to become a prosecutor. "Whenever I'm feeling lazy or defeated," she says, "I'll hear Jeffrey just poking me like he used to, saying, 'C'mon, sis, you slackin'."

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