By ELIZABETH CZAPSKI
Homicide Watch Chicago
On a summer day during their sophomore year of high school, Kayla Taylor and her boyfriend, Stevie Jefferson, sat down to talk about their future.
They envisioned a life together in Virginia after graduation, where they wanted to go to college, get good jobs, get married and have kids.
Jefferson and Taylor met during their freshman year at After School Matters, where they “wrote poetry, performed for young kids and went on college field trips,” Taylor said. Their favorite places to go together were Millennium Park and the beach.
A senior at Ombudsman High School, the 17-year-old Jefferson was scheduled to graduate in June, his mother, Latina Sanders Stuckey, said.
He would never get the chance.
On Jan. 3, Jefferson was babysitting his three younger siblings when he left to trade a video game with a friend, Sanders Stuckey said. He and another boy, Malik McNeese, 16, were on a sidewalk about noon in the 3400 block of West Fulton in East Garfield Park when a black SUV pulled up and someone inside opened fire, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
McNeese was hit in the head, back and arm, and was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Jefferson, of the 3200 block of West Maple, was shot in the head and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead in the early hours of Jan. 4, authorities said.
A 65-year-old woman who lives nearby was hit in the leg when a bullet flew into her home. She was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in good condition, police said.
No one is in custody for the shooting.
Jefferson, also known as “Poose” or “Lil Steze,” is remembered by loved ones as happy-go-lucky, “goofy,” caring and academically driven.
He worked part-time at Mariano’s. And he loved dancing, basketball, laughing and playing jokes on his younger siblings and cousins, and was “an all-around great kid,” his aunt, Sheree Jones, said.
She recalled how, when visiting relatives, a young Stevie would hide from his cousins. Once they noticed he was missing, he would jump out and scare them. “We’d all be laughing,” Jones said.
Jefferson’s death has hit his loved ones hard. “It hurts really bad every single moment of my life,” Jones said.
Family members plan to release balloons, have a candlelight vigil and celebrate Jefferson’s birthday on Feb. 20.
“Stevie was taken from us so suddenly. We didn’t know that morning when we woke up our lives were gonna be changed so drastically,” Jones said.
“If these people with these guns could actually get to know some of the people that they are hurting, not just the victims, but the victims’ families, friends and loved ones, maybe they would think twice before they decide to pull the trigger.”