WRIGHTWOOD — Standing in the dining room of the Wrightwood home she has lived in since moving herself and her family out of the projects in the late 80s, Margaret Smith shook her head.
Her son, Donnell Smith, 50, was gunned down at his girlfriend’s house on a violent weekend in June — and she still hasn’t come to terms with his loss.
“He always came through the alley and knocked on my window,” Smith said, adding that she sometimes still expects to hear that knock.
He would often swing by his family home to cut the grass, and his older sister, Debra Smith, said you could count on Donnell Smith to help with just about anything. He also did maintenance work for a church in the neighborhood. The pastors relied on his handyman skills.
“If your car broke down, he’s there. If you called, he’s coming,” Debra Smith said.
The circumstances surrounding the June 10 death of the brother she loved and admired are still hazy — and the family is desperate for answers.
Donnell Smith, a father of four and grandfather of one, had been at a picnic with friends and a girlfriend before he was killed, his mother said. It was that girlfriend’s house in the 7500 block of South Drexel Avenue where the shooting took place, his family said.
Family members said he wasn't a troublemaker.
"[Donnell] was raised in the projects,” Margaret Smith said, “All the kids knew me. ‘He’s already in a gang,’ I used to tell them. ‘I’m their leader and the name is Smith.’ ”
Donnell Smith had a bit of trouble adjusting to life outside the Robert Taylor Homes at first, but his love of family kept him close and safe — until this summer.
“This is the first time [Chicago violence] has hit our family,” his mother said. “They took a part of me away.”