Three murders in three days. The numbers are shocking many people in Montgomery. Behind the numbers, though, are families and communities, staggering from the loss.
That includes Catenia McGhee, whose son Demetrius McGhee was murdered Thursday night near his home in the 300 block of Columbia Avenue. "We're going through hell right now, because we miss him. Last night, I didn't go to bed all night. We thought he was going to come walking through the door, saying mama, I'm home, but my baby didn't make it back home this time," said McGhee.
Demetrius McGhee's family says he was working on getting his G.E.D. and pursuing his dream of becoming a rapper. "He was only 20 years old. He had a bright future ahead of him, and he didn't deserve to be killed like he was," said his mother.
On Tuesday, another family was mourning their own loss. Brandon McClain was killed in the parking lot of a gas station on Lower Wetumpka Road. Two people have been arrested in connection with his death. On Wednesday, gas station clerk M.B. Manik was murdered at the store where he worked. Montgomery Police believe Manik was killed during a robbery.
So what's behind the violence? Dr. Earnest Blackshear, psychology professor at Alabama State University, is part of a city task force charged with finding ways to cut down on community violence. According to Montgomery Police, there have been 8 murders in the city this year, compared to 23 last year. However, Blackshear says that's not necessarily because there's less violence than before.
"It's a little disheartening for a psychologist that our society is influenced by the number of homicides and we use that number as a gauge for violence. I don't think violence has subsided, I think we've had a lull in the successful termination of life," he said.
He says in order to really crack down on violence, more resources need to be allocated to fight what he calls the root causes of crime: poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and lack of access to mental health services. Blackshear says it will cost money to address those issues. However, he says it's worth the cost.
"Homicide is a problem in this country and this state and this city, and we need to make it a priority and then we need to show and stop talking and do some action about it," he said.
Blackshear says ASU is teaming up with other area universities and organizations to secure a $4.5 million grant. That money will go to fund community programs and research targeted at ending violence.
Montgomery Police are still searching for the killers in Wednesday and Thursday's homicides. If you have any information on these cases, call Crimestoppers at 215-STOP.