Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Staten Island Neighborhood Reeling from Tragic Deaths of Entire Family
Friday, July 23, 2010
The Staten Island neighborhood of Port Richmond is in shock over the apparent murder-suicide of an entire family early Thursday morning. Police say it appears the oldest child, who was 14, is responsible. But neighbors who knew CJ Jones say they can't believe it.
Elliot Wakeham lives next door to the family, and says he used to talk to the boy everyday, and often joked with him. "He was just a good kid," Wakeham says. "They were a very respectful family. The kids you could tell were well-raised."
Other neighbors recalled seeing CJ picking up his siblings from the day care they attended around the corner. People have started to leave flowers, balloons and written messages for the family there. Camille Collins paid her respects with her two younger children Thursday.
"It's a terrible tragedy for anyone that see this," Collins says. "It's a whole family, children. It's heartbreaking."
Shaquawna Meaders considered herself a close friend of the Jones family -- especially the mother, Leisa Jones. "She was a sweetheart. If she had to, she'd open up her arms to anybody," Meaders says. "If you needed something, she was willing to give it to you."
Meaders also described CJ as a loving boy who didn't seem capable of the crime he's now suspected of committing. But police officials say the teenager appears to have murdered his family members before setting fire to their home and cutting his own throat.
According to police, witnesses say CJ was lighting fires in front of the family's house in recent days, and he had been ejected from a public pool for doing the same thing.