A Chicago teen’s murder goes largely untold

File: American and Chicago flags at half mast.
File: American and Chicago flags at half mast. Flickr/Andy Phelan
File: American and Chicago flags at half mast.
File: American and Chicago flags at half mast. Flickr/Andy Phelan

A Chicago teen’s murder goes largely untold

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There may be more similarities that unite Antonio Fenner and Hadiya Pendleton than differences that divide them.

Both were teens, Antonio 16, Hadiya 15; both were black; both were Chicago Public Schools students.

And there’s this one fact that will connect them always: both were killed in the final week of a historically bloody January in Chicago.

Perhaps the biggest difference between them is what’s happened since their murders.

Hadiya was killed Jan. 29 in the 4500 block of South Oakenwald Avenue in Kenwood. Within days there was a $40,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of her killer.

Police set up a hotline for people to call with tips, and Supt. Garry McCarthy pledged a speedy investigation, which led to the arrest of two men on Feb. 11.

President Barack Obama, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn have all weighed in on Hadiya’s death. The mayor and governor attended Hadiya’s funeral. Her parents were guests of Mrs. Obama at the State of the Union address when the president spoke of Hadiya’s murder.

Antonio was shot to death Jan. 26 in the 4200 block of West Congress Parkway in Garfield Park. So far, police have made no arrests.

Antonio’s family said they have not heard from officers since their son was killed, and no one from the police department or mayor’s office has made a public statement on his death. There is no reward being offered for help finding his killer.

Antonio lived in an apartment building about a mile south from where he died, with his mother, stepfather and four younger siblings, ages 9, 7, 5 and 4.

His stepdad Clarence Steen said Antonio often looked after his brothers and sisters, and enjoyed sports and hanging out with friends. Antonio was popular in the area, friendly with everyone.

“He was 16, trying to do good in the neighborhood,” Steen said. “He was going to school, hanging out with the fellas every day, typical kid.”

Antonio was a freshman at Manley Career Academy.

Christopher Boyd, 15 and one of Antonio’s closest friends, said most days he and Antonio would join a group of friends at a park just two blocks from Antonio’s house to play basketball or football.

“He knew everybody, he was cool with everybody, so everybody is going to be down about this,” he said.

Antonio was shot in the neck in front of an empty lot at the corner of South Kildare Avenue and West Congress Parkway.

He was found unresponsive on the sidewalk and pronounced dead at 6:45 in the evening.

The next day, friends, Manley students and family members decorated the perimeter of the lot with a handmade memorial that still stands, although the balloons, Bible passages and messages scrawled on poster board have been battered by winter weather.

Antonio’s funeral at Miracle Temple Church, 4645 W. Madison Ave., was standing-room only and included a bus full of teachers who came from Manley.

“He has four little brothers and sisters that he can’t take care of,” Steen said through tears. “But we gotta move on, we gotta move on.”

Steen said he has no idea why his stepson was killed, that “he was just walking past the corner” when someone opened fire. Police, too, have no idea of the motive, nor any leads on who may have done the shooting that also left 32-year-old Dimitri Buford dead, said Officer Robert Perez of the police news affairs department. Steen said Antonio did not know Buford.

Steen is not optimistic they will catch his stepson’s killer and questioned if the police would even make an effort. Of his neighborhood, Steen said police think “whatever they’re doing, they’re going to kill each other and our job is just to come by and clean up.”

Police Officer Joshua Purkiss, also of news affairs, said he has no reason to believe the shooting was gang or drug related. As for Steen’s claim that no one from the department had spoken with the family, Purkiss said because detectives do not note every action they take in an investigation, he has no way of knowing if anyone had spoken with the family.

“I’m not authorized to make assessments regarding if it was appropriate or necessary for them to speak with the family. Even though they are the grieving family it might not be pertinent to the investigation,” Purkiss said. “There are hundreds of murder investigations going on in Chicago every day … there is no way for me to ascertain if they have been out there.”

West Garfield Park and Antonio’s stretch of the neighborhood along its border with Lawndale is not an easy place to grow up.

Households in Antonio’s census tract has a median income of $22,833, less than half of the average for Chicago as a whole, according to 2011 American Community Survey estimates. And about one-third of the households have an annual income under $10,000.

“This is highway central for drugs, for prostitutes,” Steen said. “They come down here, do what they do, and then they throw their condoms and needles out the window. And me and the landlord are out here cleaning up because I got four more babies I need to take care of.”

As Steen talked, a car stopped and idled in the middle of the intersection in front of his apartment building, and a young woman stepped out of the passenger door and walked slowly toward Steen and Christopher.

“Hey, do you guys know the time?” she called out from a few feet away. When given it she paused for a moment, then trudged back to the car.

“She didn’t want to know the … time; she wanted to know if we were [selling drugs],” Steen says after the young woman leaves. “See, that’s the problem with this neighborhood right there.”

Patrick Smith is a graduate journalism student at Columbia College in Chicago.

He’s part of a collaboration between WBEZ and a Columbia College project tracking homicides under the direction of Columbia faculty members Suzanne McBride and Dan Weissmann. Their project is funded with a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.