Mom’s words from beyond the grave condemn man who killed her pregnant daughter


Neither she nor her unborn child received it.

Instead, Timothy Jones, a Chicago gang member, cursed at the 17-year-old mother as he shot her in the head. Then he fired additional bullets into her chest and back.

This February, five years after the brutal execution, Charinez’s own mother succumbed to cancer.

Debbie Jefferson died dreaming of justice for her daughter.

On Monday, she got it — thanks, in part, to the words Debbie wrote on her death bed.

“I watched you during the trial and you showed no remorse. So maybe you wouldn’t know how I feel,” Debbie Jefferson told Jones in a statement read by a prosecutor during sentencing. “From this day forward, when you open and close your mouth and eyes, and you are still able to walk and talk, stop and take a minute and think about the lives you destroyed.

“All of your sleepless nights and dreary days, I pray you ask God for forgiveness and to have mercy on your soul,” the statement continued, according to the Chicago Tribune.

After listening to the mother’s words from beyond the grave, a judge sentenced Jones to 90 years in prison.

Even in Chicago, a city suffering from decades of gang violence, the 2011 slaying stands out. It is a terrible tidemark in a South Side community seemingly forever awash in blood.

“This young man sent a message on the streets that an unarmed pregnant woman that’s not violent to nobody [is] not safe,” Charinez’s aunt, Devorah Hope, told the Tribune shortly after the killing.

The shooting occurred the night of Aug. 16, 2011.

Charinez and a male friend had just walked to a corner store in the Southwest Side neighborhood of Marquette Park. Charinez, eight months pregnant with her second child, bought some bottles of juice.

As they walked back along 63rd Street, Charinez called her mother to say she was almost home.

She never arrived.

Instead, a car pulled up.

Timothy Jones jumped out.

“He’s got a gun,” someone shouted.

Jones’s initial target was Charinez’s male friend, a member of a rival gang, witnesses would later testify.

Jones had been shot twice — including once earlier that very day — as part of a raging gang war. Just 18 years old at the time, he was a “stick-up man” with a recent robbery conviction and a tattoo on his arm that read “RIP Granny,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

His “minor injury [earlier in the day] fueled his rage and fueled his desire for revenge,” prosecutors later claimed in court.

When his gang rival took off running, however, Jones turned his 9mm on the only person left.

Charinez Jefferson.

“Please don’t kill me,” she said, witnesses later testified. “I’m pregnant.”

Jones was unmoved.

When Charinez fell, the impact cracked her unborn baby’s skull. As she lay on the ground, dying, Jones fired again and again into her body.

“I just couldn’t believe that he had shot her that many times,” Debbie Jefferson said later when she saw autopsy photos of her daughter.

Jones fled but was quickly caught by police. Witnessed identified him as the shooter, the Sun-Times reported.

Charinez was rushed to a hospital, where she died.

Despite the horrific shooting, doctors were able to save her son. But Kahmani Jefferson would never recover from his own injuries. Oxygen deprivation left him in a vegetative state, unable to see, hear or breathe, the Tribune reported.

Doctors urged Debbie Jefferson to take her grandchild off life support, but she refused.

“I couldn’t see turning the machine off on him,” she told the newspaper in 2014. “Who am I to judge whether he lives or dies, OK? I was just grateful that he’s still here.”

Debbie’s own death was drawing near, however.

Even as Debbie attended the February 2015 trial for her daughter’s murder, she was facing her own showdown with bone cancer.

A jury deliberated for just four hours before convicting Jones of murder, the Tribune reported.

Debbie Jefferson apparently knew she would not survive to speak at the sentencing, so she prepared a statement.

On Monday, five months after Debbie’s death and five years after her daughter’s, a prosecutor read her powerful words in court.

“Maybe with one more shot, you would have taken his life too,” Debbie said of her disabled grandson, Kahmani. “It’s kind of sad when his [older] brother asks, ‘Grandma, when is he going to get out of bed and play with me?’

Charinez’s aunt, Betty Lee, also provided an impact statement.

“I can barely close my eyes some nights without seeing my niece’s body on that morgue table, bullet wounds from toe to head and for that I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive you,” she said in court, according to the Tribune.

“I hope the night of Aug. 16, 2011, haunts you in the midnight hour, as it has done me night after night, although I doubt it will,” Lee added.

Judge Nicholas Ford ordered Jones to spend 90 years behind bars, more than twice the minimum possible sentence but shy of the maximum penalty of life.

Even after her own death, Debbie Jefferson had helped get justice for her daughter’s murder.

And in her words, issued from beyond the grave, there was even a hint of the mercy Charinez had been denied that terrible summer night five years ago.

“I had to let go of anger, resentment, bitterness and hatred,” Debbie wrote to her daughter’s killer. “[I] had to find a way in my heart to forgive you.”

(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Michael E. Miller