While 35-year-old Michael Madison sits in an Ohio jail cell, accused of multiple murders, friends and family of his alleged victims are mourning.
The bodies of Angela Deskins, Shetisha Sheeley and Shirellda Terry were found last week in trash bags near Madison’s East Cleveland apartment.
From the Here & Now Contributors Network WCPN’s Brian Bull attended several events this past weekend honoring their lives.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. The 35-year-old man accused of multiple murders in East Cleveland remains in an Ohio jail cell. Michael Madison is expected to be indicted within weeks. Meanwhile, families of the three victims who were found in trash bags last week near Madison's apartment continue to mourn their losses. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, WCPN's Brian Bull attended several events this weekend honoring their lives.
BRIAN BULL, BYLINE: On Friday, about 100 people gathered at the corner of 146th and Saint Clair Avenue to celebrate the life of 18-year-old Shirellda Terry. She disappeared after leaving her job at an elementary school. Her body was found a couple weeks later inside a garage just down the steps from Michael Madison's apartment. Terry's face - framed with wavy bobbed hair and glasses - smiles from countless flyers posted on streetlights. The event has drawn everyone from bikers to clergy. Baptist minister Pia Hoffman says Terry's family is managing the best they can.
PIA HOFFMAN: First of all, your child has been murdered. And then to be put in a garbage bag and thrown away like a piece of garbage, it's hard. But through prayer and having support from family and friends, they're really doing well.
BULL: The deaths have caused sorrow and anger across East Cleveland. But Hoffman says she's against the death penalty for Madison.
HOFFMAN: As a minister, I have to be real. Our resolution is that he gets his life back right with God, that he repents, and he repents to the families.
BULL: Meanwhile, East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton says the community can now relax - a little.
MAYOR GARY NORTON: We believe that the threat is not only isolated, but we believe the threat is off the streets. And that's important in this situation because any individual who is capable of killing three women in less than two weeks, that's somebody that we need off the streets immediately.
BULL: About three miles away, the tone is quieter but no less reverent for Angela Deskins. Killed at 38 years old, Deskins was found in the basement of a vacant home just a few hundred feet away from where Terry's body was found. Inside a funeral home on Lakeshore Boulevard, friends and relatives stand near her casket, as early photos of her in pigtails and cradling babies are shown on a screen. Catana Deskins is Angela's younger sister. She says Angela was a guardian to her.
CATANA DESKINS: When I was three or four, she was going to Catholic School, and she would dress up as a nun, and she would teach me numbers and letters. And it was so cute because she made learning fun.
COUNCILMAN MANSELL BAKER: Check on one another. If it has to be a text message that says, hey, I'm going from point A to point B, and if I don't call you by the time I get there, come looking for me.
BULL: Sunday afternoon saw people gather at the Empowerment Church for a fundraiser and memorial service for all three East Cleveland victims. Organizers called for prayers and vigilance in the wake of the murders. Tanya Robinson Williams is an evangelical Baptist minister and representative for Shetisha Sheeley's family. Williams admits one hard truth about incidents like these.
TANYA ROBINSON WILLIAMS: We can't prevent it, and that's the saddest part. But what we can do is make it harder and make less victims out there because we can be mindful.
BULL: For now, many here in East Cleveland say they are grateful. Grateful that Michael Madison is behind bars. Grateful that the community has united to help in the investigation. And grateful that events like these allow them to open their hearts. At Angela Deskin's memorial service, Catana Deskins speaks to her departed sister.
DESKINS: Angie, I love you. I love you so much. You're the best sister a girl could ask for. And I will love you forever, and I will always miss you.
BULL: For HERE AND NOW, I'm Brian Bull in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.