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His mother, Doris Manley, sits in a swivel chair watching a rerun of Bonanza on TV Land. A mulatto woman in an oversize white T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, she works as a nursing assistant at the VA hospital in Allapattah. Drawn shades and curtains dim the air-conditioned room. Doris has faced the dilemma of many 15th Avenue mothers: How to keep your children from getting sucked into the drugs and violence that so often leads to death?
She has succeeded, in part. Two daughters garnered high grades in school and exited the neighborhood. But a pair of sons, including Krow, has been drawn into the world of drugs and violence. "I've seen a lot of bad stuff," she says. "But there are a lot of good, hard-working people in the neighborhood."
Doris and her husband, Jimmy, moved to Miami from Georgia in 1974. "There were no jobs where we come from," she explains. She found work pressing garments at Dorissa, a now-defunct dress factory in midtown. "I worked there on and off for 15 years," she says. "I started off at $2 an hour." Jimmy was hired at a Coca-Cola plant on Douglas Road.
Later, Doris studied to become a nursing assistant and then secured work at a Barry University-area nursing home for 12 years. She's been at the VA since 2003. "We've never been on welfare or used food stamps," Doris says proudly. "I worked a lot of 16-hour days so the kids could wear Nike gear."
Those kids include adult daughter, Dimetria, who is now an executive for Bank of America. Then came Krow, who was born June 12, 1976. Jimmy Jr. arrived two years later. "We moved to Brownsville in 1980 and stayed there for about five years," Doris says. The youngest child, Amber, was born in 1993. She recently graduated with honors from Miami Northwestern Senior High. The walls of the house are adorned with photos of the brood. One shows Doris and Jimmy with the four children in their arms. "That's when I was young and sexy," she jokes.
Dimetria's and Amber's academic trophies fill a bookshelf holding other family mementos. "My parents taught my sisters that they don't have to settle for any dude or rely on a man to pay their bills," Krow boasts. "They can take care of themselves."
The body count on 15th Avenue rose during the family's early years here. On February 20, 1983, 45-year-old Edward Lee Griffin shot and killed 15-year-old Robert Jackson at the corner of 70th Street. Thirty-five days later, 23-year-old Paul Jackson (no relation to Robert) was murdered on 67th Street. On August 13 that year, 37-year-old Randolph Mitchell collapsed and died behind a restaurant a block from where Paul expired. He had run from a nearby abandoned house where he had been shot. On January 10, 1984, police found the body of 20-year-old Rose Bailey, who had been beaten to death in an abandoned apartment on 64th Street.
The murders played out during Miami's cocaine cowboys era, when the city led the nation in homicides for consecutive years, and the medical examiner's morgue became so crowded that the county had to lease a refrigerated trailer from Burger King for all the cadavers.
Violence arrived the very day the Manleys moved into their first home on 15th Avenue, a four-bedroom apartment on the corner of 65th Street. It was Thanksgiving 1985. "The night we got here, somebody got killed," Doris remembers. "Initially, I didn't want to live out here." Krow remembers he and his siblings walked over to the crime scene and saw the corpse. "After that, I saw bodies lying in the street all the time," he recalls blithely. "They'd be all swollen and in full rigor mortis long after the cops and the coroners had investigated the crime scene."
On September 25, 1990, Jimmy and Doris purchased their current residence, located five blocks up 15th Avenue from their first, for $50,000. The single-story, two-bedroom house was built in 1946. "It has withstood a lot of hurricane weather," Doris says.
To keep their children away from the violence, Doris and Jimmy bought a portable basketball hoop for the back yard. "That net kept me and a lot of my friends off the streets," Krow says. "My parents taught us by example. They were never out drinking or doing drugs. They came home from work and that was it." Cussing wasn't allowed. "Even today, I don't use profanity in this house," Krow insists.
The '90s saw the brutality on 15th Avenue reach a terrifying crescendo. As the cocaine cowboys faded from the scene, the dope boys took their place. Groups such as Vonda's Gang, the Boobie Boys, and Cloud Nine emerged to do battle for prized turf in Liberty City and Overtown. One day in December 1998, at NW 68th Street and 15th Avenue, a suspected gang member was ambushed by rivals in front of a now-closed variety store. More than 50 fist-sized bullet holes riddled the outside walls, according to the Miami Herald. At a church a block north, the pastor stopped services so none of his parishioners would fall victim to stray bullets.
The John Doe Gang, perhaps the most notorious of the inner-city drug rings, operated dope holes along NW 14th and 15th avenues around the same time. They sold weed, powder cocaine, and crack around the clock until 1999, when a Miami federal jury convicted leader Corey Smith and five of his top lieutenants in a wide-ranging drug conspiracy case. One witness claimed the gang had murdered 41 people.