Boston Herald - Boston, Mass.
Sep 19, 2002
The murder of Chauntae Jones was so grotesque that Larry Mays suppressed the memory for three years.
"The reason, I'm sure, is that my daughter was the same age at the time," he recalled yesterday. "I just couldn't bring myself to imagine a 14-year-old girl, being 8 1/2 months pregnant and lying in a shallow grave down off Morton Street for five weeks."
As director of The Log School in Dorchester, Larry Mays works to reclaim young lives on the edge. A few nights ago, when he heard Sgt. Detective Danny Keeler's name bouncing off the TV news, Mays flashed back to that grim November 1999.
"At the time, we heard that there were kids in the neighborhood who knew what had gone down," Mays said. "And believe it or not, some were actually crossing Morton Street to visit Chauntae's grave.
"It was here Danny and I crossed paths," he said. "I don't know if you remember, but that was one very, very bad scene. Kids who knew something were scared. And the Jones family was vowing to take revenge.Things could have gotten ugly.
"Somehow, Danny was able to get the kids to give up the whole story and keep the family from exploding at the same time. Basically, he nailed the case."
One of the two young men who now stand accused of bludgeoning and burying Chauntae Jones while she was still alive is the father of the unborn child who perished with her.
In Larry Mays' view, securing justice for one 14-year-old girl who had been so viciously discarded lifted skilled police work into the realm of pure community service.
Understand that Larry Mays has worked the streets, haunted the courts, wound his way through project hallways in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan for years. He's joined probation officers in trying to keep kids out of jail and help them remain in some kind of home. He doesn't walk around with a bullhorn. He is not about hijacking an emotional moment to stroke his own ego and build himself a soap box.
On Monday night, as Danny Keeler stood in the middle of Humboldt Avenue reconstructing a moment when a murder suspect fired on him, one Jamarhl Crawford attempted to light a fire with a bullhorn.
The Boston chapter of the New Black Panther Party would have its coming-out moment. Its chairman, Jamarhl Crawford, would get on the horn to rant and rave and drive home the message that cops were a plague on the black community.
Of course, Crawford failed to preface his bullhorn remarks by saying he's on probation for dealing cocaine.
On June 23, 1999, Jamarhl Crawford copped a guilty plea in Middlesex Court for the possession and distribution of a Class B substance. That would be coke. There's also some language in there about peddling the junk within a school zone.
As things stand now, the Boston chairman of the New Black Panther Party remains on what's known as a guilty-probation until May 2003. As you could probably guess, Jamarhl Crawford isn't exactly a newcomer when it comes to cocaine busts. His drug offenses go back almost 10 years.
Where exactly does cocaine rank among the cancers that tear away at the fabric of the inner city? If Jamarhl Crawford is going to raise a bullhorn to his lips and pretend to speak for the community, the least he can do is begin with the confession of his own sins.
Late yesterday afternoon Larry Turner spoke quietly on the phone from the middle of the state. More than a year ago, his 19-year-old son Joel had his chest ripped open by invaders who barged into his apartment on Columbia Road with an 18-inch knife.
"The first time I met Danny Keeler," Larry said, "was the night Joel was murdered. I remember him telling me that my son must have had a lot going for him, because people were coming down to the station to offer information on his murder. He promised me he would do all he could to find them. And he did."
Larry Turner spoke of a cop who has become a kind of human life raft during the longest, most painful year of his life, a cop who's given him all his phone numbers, a cop who is always there to answer a question, always there to reassure him.
"It's not simply that Danny's been able to combine a solid professionalism with a real compassion," Larry Turner said. "It's that he makes you aware that murder is a tragedy for both sides. To my mind, Danny Keeler is very much aware that with every murder, many other lives are ruined . . . many other lives are lost. Over these last few days, I've tried to imagine what he's going through. I know it can't be easy. I just can't say enough for the man."