Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mourners Pack Service for Jermane Johnson Jr.; Toddler Drowned By Five-Year-Old

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM

Jermane Le Elliott Johnson Jr.: October 16, 2009 - June 4, 2011
  • Jermane Le Elliott Johnson Jr.: October 16, 2009 - June 4, 2011

Updated 10:18 p.m. June 15 to show that Jermane Johnson Sr. was at home in St. Louis, not on a bus to Kansas City, on the day that his son died.

The casket is no bigger than a dresser drawer. The boy inside, Jermane Le Elliott Johnson Jr., lies peacefully even as the world unravels for those around him. His hair is braided and he wears an uncreased argyle sweater with alternating navy blue and baby blue diamonds over a white tee shirt. Tucked beside his left arm is a mini foam football.

A woman walks up to the casket, holding the hand of a small girl.

"He's a baby," says the girl.

"Yes he is," says the woman.

The woman purses her lips and shakes her head then walks back down the center aisle with the girl, past a sobbing older lady and a man with his head in his hands.

Nearly 150 sad faces pack the Williams-James Mortuary, which is roughly the size of a large studio apartment, to mourn perhaps the most unlikely death in America's most dangerous city. The boy in the casket, on this earth less than twenty months, was drowned in a bathtub June 4. Police say the girl who killed him was hardly bigger than the wide-eyed little girl at his memorial service last night -- that his five-year-old cousin intentionally held him under water because he "cried too much." The boy's mother, Nicole Curry, insists it was an accident.

The man with his head in his hands is Jermane Johnson Sr. He was at home in St. Louis when he received the most devastating phone call a father can imagine.

To the right of the casket stands a photo collage of the boy. Little Jermane the newborn, with chubby cheeks and pillowy nose. Little Jermane with a joyful toothless grin. Little Jermane staring at the world with big soulful brown eyes.

Many in the mortuary wear printed tee shirts bearing images of the boy. "RIP My Little Angel, Paky... Love Always." His loved ones called him Paky.

An old woman in a gray dress looks down at the little boy in the casket. Her back is to the room, but the way her shoulders tremble, it is clear she is crying. She bends down gingerly and kisses the boy on the forehead. A large man in an "RIP My Little Angel" shirt embraces the woman and she buries her head in his chest.

"You do everything right and you're still in the storm!" shouts the pastor, the Reverend Chaz T. Jaquess.

"Amen!" respond the mourners.

The women in the front row hug each other. Wiping their tears on each other's shoulders.

"Brother Jermane wasn't with us for very long," says the pastor. "But I know he is in Heaven."

"Amen!" respond the mourners.

"We will meet him and all the other loved ones we have lost there," says the pastor.

"Amen!" respond the mourners.

The memorial service ends, and many of the mourners line up to console the boy's family in front of the small white casket. The line stretches to the back of the room. Some of the children, visibly restless throughout the service, scurry outside. They run and giggle in the grass by the building's parking lot, chasing each other through the legs of their parents.

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