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The Journal Gazette

  • Jamie Duffy | the Journal Gazette Tamika Bonner has shared the story of finding the body of her son De'Onta, who was slain in 2012.

  • Jamie Duffy | the Journal Gazette Stacey Davis sits next to mementos about her son Codi, who was killed Dec. 6, 2016.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 1:00 am

Videos help families of homicide victims

On social media, group sharing individual stories of loss

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

It was 10:28 a.m. Oct. 2, 2012, when Timika Bonner got the knock on her door that forever changed her life.

Her son's best friend came by and when she looked at him she “felt something.”

She thought he'd come to say her son, De'Onta Tyreese Bonner, 18, had been locked up for the robbery of a nearby gas station she knew he had been involved in.

“At least that was my thoughts,” she wrote in a Facebook account. She dropped to her knees and told her son's friend to take her to Dee.

It is the beginning of the story of her son's death she wrote with the help of her friend, Dana Culver, and posted online. The two formed the group Justice For Our Loved Ones but are also members of the larger closed Facebook group #FlipThisCity.

The latter was formed in January to oust Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards, who they say isn't taking enough cases to court.

Bonner's story was one of the first to appear on Facebook since the beginning of the year. It started an emotional outpouring now enshrined in the #FlipThisCity movement and a support group for these devastated mothers.

“We didn't choose to join this club,” says Tennille Walker, #FlipThisCity's executive director. It chose them.

#FlipThisCity now has 5,000 members, according to Nasim Walker, Tennille Walker's sister-in-law, director of communications and social media.

It now has a website and YouTube channel where the group will post individual stories.

With the recent help of Faith Jones, a 16-year-old Bishop Luers junior, the family's stories will become part of a video library. Jones, who said she has her own story to tell but isn't ready to go public with it, designed and built the website and created the group's logo – black and white female hands clasped together.

Bonner told her Facebook friends she found her son after his best friend and others pointed to a fence close to Weisser Park Elementary.

His lifeless body lay between two vacant houses. In her shock, Bonner could see one snail crawling on his forehead and another on his cheek.

She dropped to her knees and screamed “Noooooo! Noooooo!” There was no blood evident until they turned De'Onta over. He had been stabbed multiple times in the back. Then police arrived.

It was that vision she woke up to every day. Her first thought now is how much she misses him.

“He was the only one who called me momma,” she said in an interview. “They (her other children) call me mom.”

Bonner has created an altar to “Dee” in her apartment where she prays and sits when she's alone. She has always gone to church and attends Wings of Deliverance on Fairfield Avenue. To get some closure, she wants to buy a headstone for his grave but cannot afford the $1,300. Because of her trauma and grief, she lost her house, her job and her health and now is disabled.

Some mothers who have lost a child have a favorite song, some keep ordinary things like cellphones as they were the day their child died. Some admit they take medication to ease the pain, while others take a drink when they never used to. 

Kandell White, whose son Dontay White was shot in the neck as he sat in a car in the 9100 block of Brickshire Parkway, says she hides.

“My faith is pretty low from this,” says White, who goes into Dontay's room every day before she goes to work.

“I pray to him and tell him, 'I'm sorry.' I go through his Facebook all the time, reading everything and watch all his videos of him and his friends over and over,” said White, who spoke at the Feb. 24 #FlipThisCity meeting at Destiny Life Center on Warsaw Street.

Dontay's friends stop by often, White said, but she and her husband, her 22-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son have up to this point kept their emotions inside.

Mothers in #FlipThisCity say there have been many unsolved homicides since Richards took office in 2002. 

They are critical of Victim Assistance, an agency within the Fort Wayne Police Department. Jessica Crozier, the director, says Victim Assistance is not a counseling service but is there to help the family navigate through the criminal justice process.

“We can steer them toward counseling,” Crozier said. “They have to be the ones who tell us they need it.”

In the first weeks of grief and confusion, mothers say decisions on anything are hard to make. #FlipThisCity wants to make it easier, Nasim Walker said, by working with all the agencies to understand what the grieving families are going through and how they can be helped.

Through their videos, they offer families the chance for a cathartic telling of their pain. They also show concern. The group sent flowers and a wind chime to a woman whose brother was just killed. The woman thanked them on the site.

The group has also planned a free skating event for April 15 at Bell's Skating Rink in New Haven.  

jduffy@jg.net