New York City Mother Still Hopes for Justice on Son’s Sixth ‘Murder-versary’

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Julia Sclafani

Monica Cassaberry (center) releases balloons in memory of her son Jamal Singleton, who was fatally shot six years ago.

NEW YORK — Six years after Jamal Singleton was shot in the back, mother Monica Cassaberry says she is ready to make a new push for detectives to solve his murder.

She and her family are frustrated at the police department’s lack of any meaningful progress. There is no indication that the shooting was random, targeted or a case of mistaken identity, she said. The case remains unsolved even though the shooting was captured on three different surveillance cameras from nearby businesses and apartment buildings.

“When I was growing up, we had a community raise our children. We need to come back to that because these children are dying,” Cassaberry said.

On what she calls his “murder-versary,” she released blue and white  balloons Tuesday evening, just after dark. Grandson Jamal Singleton Jr., 8, played tag with his cousins, running around in front of his grandmother’s apartment in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Cassaberry hopes that during the next “murder-versary” her son‘s killer will be in custody and serving time for shooting her son to death. She was joined by other mothers whose children have been killed, some more than one.

“We are parents and mothers who don’t want to be in this group, we didn’t ask to be in this group” Cassaberry said about the network of women who have connected after the loss of a child. “But this club is getting bigger and bigger.”

Jamal Singleton, 22, was killed on September 19, 2011, shot outside the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood house he shared with his family, including Cassaberry, and his son, Jamal Jr., who was 2 at the time. He had been working at Verizon Wireless doing custodial work for six months before his death and was helping support his household.

Every generation of Cassaberry’s family has been shaped by violence in the community. Jamal Jr. still lives in the home where the shooting took place. Her oldest grandson, 12, lost his mother to arson at age 4 and his godfather to gun violence.

Cassaberry says she didn’t find solace in support groups, and found herself drawn more to being active and vocal in the community. She began meeting other mothers who lost children to gun violence at marches and rallies. One was Bridgette Hoggard, mother of 18-year-old Terrell Fountain, who was shot to death in 2011, just a few months before Singleton.

She is now involved in the Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy Foundation with Hoggard, an organization founded in honor of a slain basketball rising star, lovingly nicknamed Chicken. Cassaberry is the assistant supervisor, overseeing community-organized response to support families immediately after gun-related deaths.

She has grown close with the group of mothers she’s met in her fight for justice and who she now considers like kin. They form the community that is filling in to raise and support the families fractured by gun violence.

Together, they commemorate birthdays, anniversaries, “murder-versaries,” and milestones, like murder cases being solved.

“We’ve all become family because of this,” Cassaberry said.

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