INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Mother’s Day morning brought an unbearable pain to Gayla Whitney.
“Actually, I didn’t want to get up,” she said. “My grandbaby woke me up this morning and told me good morning.”
The look on her granddaughter’s face didn’t ease the hurt Whitney said she lives with every day since her son was gunned down on November 22, 2017, the night before Thanksgiving.
“I remember putting a turkey in the oven. That’s all I remembered, and then I heard gunshots, and my stomach dropped because I just knew,” she said. “Several individuals shot up the house. I guess it must’ve been a drive by.”
Whitney ran down the block to 4146 Shady Oak Drive, where minutes before she had dropped off Jamontez Woods, 24. Police and paramedics wouldn’t let Whitney join her son as they worked in vain to save his life.
Whitney believes her son was set up by someone close to him, and the killer’s family knows it.
“It’s felt betrayed,” she said. “They know who they are. The mothers know who they are because a mother knows. The mother knows their child and the streets talk. Some mothers condone it. Some kids tell their mothers, they talk to their mothers.”
Cathy Mann spent her second Mother’s Day without her son, Trevon Mann, 19, whose body was found frozen at 4013 Stratford Court in January of last year.
Mann said her son was tortured and then killed by people he knew.
“Several people that has been involved in my son’s murder were actually in my home a few days before Trevon was murdered,” she said. “Trevon actually grew up with some of them. I’ve actually had them in my home several times, carried on conversations with them. Me and their moms are friends.
“It’s really hard, and put together how this happened when you have parents of the people who murdered your child knowing each other, and the people that are involved in your child’s murder, they still actually smile in my face when they see me and speak to me.”
Mann and Whitney are members of what they call, “a sisterhood,” of mothers who have lost their children to gun violence in Indianapolis and are still seeking answers for the killings.
“We have to go through each and every day wondering why this happened to our child, and on Mother’s Day, this is the hardest day for us because we get up and we don’t have our child with us,” said Mann. “I envy those mothers who have their child with them today, that can hug their child today, that woke up with their son and their daughter jumping in their bed telling them happy Mother’s Day.”
Mann said that includes the mothers of her son’s killers.
“Look at the pain in my face,” she said as her eyes brimmed with tears, “because behind all this is a mother that’s in pain. A mother that has to go day-by-day without her child, knowing that someone took their life and knowing that there’s mothers out there that know their children murdered my son. I just ask that you step up and do the right thing.”
“It’s always best to step up and do the right thing but some don’t,” said Whitney. “Some feel like, ‘It is what it is,’ because it’s not their child that they lost.
“At this point, I don’t think I could sit across the table from ‘em but…if you know your child is out here killing with no remorse, you should step up, make your child step up. I just want justice for my son.”
The parents of Monica Brody, Daron Johnson and Stachonn Nance all wanted to talk about their slain children, but Mann says the moms were too emotional on this Mother’s Day to relive their losses or call out the family members of the killers.
“The best thing that we can do for them is to teach them how to be a man and step up for the wrongs that they do,” said Mann as she cradled an urn containing her son’s ashes, “and on this Mother’s Day, you have your sons, you have your daughters, this is all I have.”
Since Woods’ murder in late 2017, there have been 237 more homicides in Indianapolis.
Detectives have cleared approximately 82 of those cases, meaning there are plenty of relatives of uncaught killers who might have an idea that their loved ones were involved in taking the life of another mother’s child.
If you have information about any unsolved killing, call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at (317) 262-TIPS.
Your clue could be worth a one thousand dollar reward.