This is the story Bertha Purnell told me:
When my son Maurice was killed, I went a little bit crazy. It started when I got the call and rushed to where he’d been shot, on Laramie Avenue in my neighborhood, Austin. Everything was like a blur and later I remembered I actually drove through the police tape at the crime scene.
A cop found out who I was and showed me some compassion and told me they’d rushed Maurice to Mt. Sinai Hospital. So I went there.
The hospital told me Maurice was there but the security guard said I had to wait outside. I understand there’ve been shootings at these hospitals and the staff has to be safe, but you need to let the mothers in.
I waited outside. It seemed like hours.
I started having chest pains and they brought me a wheelchair and took me inside but I fell from it and a doctor came to me, the doctor who treated Maurice. He said he did all he could and I knew what he was about to say next, but I can’t actually remember the words.
He must have told me Maurice was dead. He was shot four times and the kill shot went through his back. I asked to see my son’s body but was told to wait outside again and then they said I couldn’t see him until he was sent to the morgue the next day.
So I went home and all night I waited and I never saw him so I thought they were wrong, that it wasn’t him, that they made a mistake. I kept thinking they were wrong. But they weren’t wrong.
The next day was a Sunday and we went to the morgue and my son Marcus and I were taken to look at a tiny little computer monitor. A computer monitor to identify my baby. A tiny bitty monitor.
After that they charged a man named Martez Myles with the murder and sent him to jail to wait for trial.
Like I said, after Maurice was killed I went kind of crazy. I started drinking. One day I even chased a car that I thought had my son’s killer in it. Something in my mind, I thought they’d let him out. But it wasn’t him and I was crying so hard, I knew I went too far. I couldn’t function in my job as a nurse, I felt I had no voice, I was falling apart.
One woman at work asked me if my son was a gang-banger and I just lost it. The defendant’s girlfriend taunted me on Facebook, and said Maurice was “worm bait.”
For years now, time after time after time I’ve gone to court for the trial. The defendant has a private lawyer and sometimes I wait and wait and the lawyer doesn’t show up for hours. And then it’s continued again. It’s been four years now.
It took me a year after Maurice was killed to pull myself together enough to see that people like me have to tell our stories.
We have to be heard. My mind was all over the place. I wanted to do so much.
LaKenyia Griffin, Jackie Bowie, Delores Smith-Sccott, Reginice McBride and Bertha Purnell of Mothers on a Mission 28 (left to right).
That’s why I formed Mothers On A Mission 28, for mothers like me whose children have been murdered. I want to help if I can, I want all of us to help and support each other.
Sometimes people say they don’t like hearing about all the killings on the news, that it’s too much for them. If it’s too much for you, remember us who live it every day. It never stops for us.
It’s part of me now. My baby is gone. June 24th was the fourth anniversary of Maurice’s killing. We call it an Angelversary, because that day my son became my angel.
The Mothers pray at the site where one of their children, Trevon Jeffries, was killed.