Friday, August 31, 2001

Anguished mother determined to find son's killer




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        Grief casts a pall on the sunny yellow house near the summit of Mount Auburn. Inside, Carla McNeal wipes tears from her eyes. “I'm a mother on a mission,” she said.

        She wants to find out who killed her son, 18-year-old Jeremy Long. And she needs help. The police continue to pursue leads. But his murderer remains at large.

        Jeremy's partially decomposed body was found July 23 on a wooded hillside behind a West Clifton Avenue apartment complex.

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Carla McNeal is reflected in the mirror on the fireplace mantle where a collage of photos of her son Jeremy Long is displayed.
(Brandi Stafford photos)
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        “He was dumped there just like he was a piece of trash,” Carla said.

        “He wasn't perfect. I know he got into trouble with the law.”

        Jeremy's record included arrests for punching his stepfather, possessing marijuana and throwing a concrete block through a store window.

        “But still,” Carla said, “he didn't deserve to be murdered and tossed away like he was garbage.”

        On the day his body was discovered, Jeremy became the city's 28th homicide of the year and the 77th shooting victim following the April riots. Since then, Cincinnati's murder count has tragically grown to 36. Shootings stand at 106.

        Carla knows the numbers. The 40-year-old mother of four also knows how her eldest son died.

        “Two gunshot wounds to the chest.

        “I asked the coroner if my baby suffered long. He said no.”

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Jeremy carved "Lord Save Me" and a cross on his bedroom closet door.
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        One bullet nicked Jeremy's aorta. As the coroner's report notes, the time between the shooting and death was “brief.”

        “Long-term” is how Carla describes her grief. She's already suffered a nervous breakdown. Since her son's death she has not been back to work as a teacher-liaison for Head Start instructors.

        “I can't go back, at least not just yet,” she said. “I must find out who killed Jeremy.”

        Late Tuesday night, Carla sat on her living room sofa and started writing, defining her mission on paper.

        “I wanted to hold up a mirror to the whole city,” she said. “The sadness caused by these shootings and killings affects everybody. We're all feeling the pain.”

        Carla poured her feelings onto two sheets of three-ring notebook paper. Penned in blue ink, her neat script pulled no punches.

        “Somebody killed my son Jeremy Long and more than likely it was somebody black,” she said, reading from the first sheet of notebook paper.

        “Killing each other begets killing each other over and over again.”

        Her words spoke to her son's peers and to community leaders.

        “To the young black males who think a real job is beneath them, blaming the "white man' for all your damned problems, you've only proven to everybody how ignorant you really are.

        “To all authorities of all races ... you can't change people by asking to please kindly stop hating me. They have to want to change within themselves.”

        Carla told me she knows “someone's mama is out there with information about my son's death.” So, the mirror she held up to the city includes this plea:

        “Please call Crime Stoppers at 352-3040. They don't even want your name. You just tell them the truth.”

        She laid the sheets of notebook paper on her coffee table. Looking up, she said:

        “Whoever did this killed the wrong somebody's child. They will not go unpunished.”

        Carla made it clear to me she's not out to change the world.

        “I'm no crusader,” she said. “I'm just a mother who loves her son.”

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/radel

       



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