By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Ray Downs
The ambulance took Ketrease.
Police officers took Annalyn.
The little girl gave a statement to the authorities. The alleged driver, a boy named Dominick who lived nearby (his name has been changed for this story because his identity is protected by law), was arrested and taken to the juvenile detention center on Vandeventer.
Later the police drove Annalyn up to the hospital to see her friend. "They bring her back alive," she adds softly. She won't say anything more about the visit.
Ketrease hovered between life and death for four days at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. But her injuries were too extensive, and three days before Halloween, she died.
The lives of three children were forever changed. One girl was killed. A boy sits in juvenile jail, facing second-degree murder charges and prosecution efforts to try him as an adult. And Annalyn is the third casualty of neighborhood crime that adults can't seem to stop. She's left with the memories of her friend's violent death, a tragedy that has torn an already tense community.
Ketrease Murphy's white bow matches her white coffin, which is lined with pink satin. Pink lilies and pink and white carnations surround the casket at the front of the chapel at the Ronald L. Jones funeral home on Delmar Boulevard. There's a guest book and, outside, a black empty hearse awaits -- her limousine ride to Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church the next day, Tuesday, November 4.
Pleasant Green is one of the oldest black church communities in St. Louis. In 1945, Pleasant Green moved into its current home, a former synagogue near the intersection of West End Avenue and Page. Inside the church and behind the altar, a large mural depicts three disciples kneeling before Jesus while Moses and Elijah stand at his side.
Three preachers watch as mourners stream in and take their seats. The casket lid is closed. Ketrease's grieving parents, Cortez and Detrease Murphy, as well as siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins sit in the front. The church is filled to capacity; there aren't enough programs for all those in attendance, and people share their copies. Amid the photos of Ketrease at various stages in her life is a dedication from her parents:
"You brought joy to our lives as well as being our best friend and our baby girl. Treasy you are so special to us. You will always be in our hearts and in our touch. You will be missed and always loved. You will always be mom and dad's baby girl, as well as daddy's little angel."
The service opens with testimonials as guests make their way up a side aisle to a microphone and share memories and words of support for the family. A girl in braids, wearing the light-blue uniform shirt of Pruitt Military Academy, reads a poem. Ketrease attended the magnet middle school for sixth grade and had just started seventh grade. Her uniformed classmates, among them a young girl clutching a teddy bear in the crook of her arm, occupy several rows of pews in the middle of the church. When the seventh-grade team leader approaches the microphone, the children rise and, at her order, snap to attention in unison and salute the coffin.
One of the reverends stands before the congregation and launches into a "life reflection" for the benefit of the young people in his midst. "You young people, God is trying to get your attention," he says, his voice booming with urgency. "God wants to speak to your life today."
The message: "Slow down." But he's not talking about the cars speeding along Evans Avenue. He's exhorting his young listeners to accept Jesus, just as Ketrease had the previous summer at Bible camp.
The second preacher picks up the same thread: Because Ketrease had turned to God, she resides in Heaven. "She can't come to you when you call her now. But you can go to her." In the audience, a woman clutches the Bible in her lap; her "amen"s and "that's right"s mingle with other affirmations from the audience.
After a song, the funeral breaks from tradition. Ketrease, the little girl who loved Jesus, also loved cheering with her junior Rams squad at football games, and a group of the cheerleaders performs a cheer in her honor.
The final eulogy offers a stern reminder to the crowd. "You don't have to be old to die," cautions the preacher. "Learn to number your days. Learn to value your time so you can use it for the Lord."
When he finishes, attendants open the casket for viewing. They drape white gauze over the raised lid and mount a gold lamp on top, the last bit of light that will shine on Ketrease before she is lowered into the ground. As the congregation files down to say farewell, a soloist begins the song "I'll Fly Away."
Inside the church, the mood is one of grief and hope. But out on Evans Avenue the sentiment is different. On the street, there's outrage. Three weeks after the funeral, anger and frustration are still palpable, directed toward both the people stealing cars and the police.