Jonylah Watkins' Funeral Director: Worst Case I've Ever Seen

By Erica Demarest and Darryl Holliday  on March 13, 2013 12:29pm  | Updated on March 13, 2013 8:01pm

DOWNTOWN — As the family of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins finalized funeral arrangements for the slain little girl, the family's funeral home director said the case was the worst he'd ever seen.

"I've had children 4, 5 and 6 years old, but this is the youngest. It's terrible," said Spencer Leak, funeral director at Leak and Sons.

"It's just heartbreaking. I have a grandchild a little older, so it really broke my heart. I feel for the family — these are just little tiny innocents."

Jonylah was shot and killed Monday as her father changed her diaper in the front passenger seat of his minivan in the 6500 block of South Maryland. Police say her father, Jonathan Watkins, is a gang member and was likely targeted by the still unknown gunman.

Jonylah's wake and funeral will be at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tuesday, respectively, at New Beginnings Church, 6620 S. King Dr., Leak said.

A viewing will be held from 6-10 p.m. Monday for Jonylah, who will be buried in a 3-foot casket, Leak said.

Jonylah's funeral will be open-casket, and her body will need special preparation because of her gunshot wounds.

Meanwhile, her father said he's cooperating with police in their efforts to track down her killer.

In an interview with DNAinfo.com Chicago Wednesday morning, Jonathan Watkins said he was helping police and answering all questions in connection to the Monday shooting.

Also Wednesday, Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose reportedly has offered to help with funeral expenses for Jonylah. Leak, however, said he had not heard of any contributions from Rose.

The Rev. Corey Brooks, who is serving as a family spokesman, said the reward for information leading to an arrest in the case had grown to $11,000.

No arrests had been as of Wednesday night.

"Everybody is fully committed to making sure we catch the killer, and making sure we're in communication with the proper authorities," Brooks said Wednesday night.

Waktins, 29, also said Wednesday that his condition was improving and he was recovering from his injuries. He was shot in the face, leg and buttocks and could be released from Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Thursday.

Asked if he had any idea why someone would want to target him, Waktins said "no." He also said he had no message for his daughter's killer.

Waktins' assertions differ somewhat from what Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said during a news conference Tuesday.

McCarthy said detectives had spoken with Watkins, but it wasn't clear whether he would provide information to arrest his daughter's killer.

"At this point, we really do not have a good cooperating witness," McCarthy said.

McCarthy also said the girl's killer was "exclusively" targeting her father in a case that had "strong gang overtones." A police source earlier said Watkins was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

"This appears to be a targeted incident," McCarthy said. "It was very clear that whoever was doing this was firing at the father and exclusively at the father, who happened to be sitting in the minivan with a child."

Watkins has an extensive arrest record.

In what appears to be his most recent arrest, police stopped him in the 8400 block of South Cottage Grove on June 11 when he allegedly failed to use his turn signal. Police said they saw him reach toward the driver-side door as if to hide something. When they opened the door, they allegedly found numerous baggies containing "a green leafy substance."

Watkins, who the report said goes by the nickname "Toe," allegedly told cops: "'I sell each bag for $5. I was going to buy some shoes. My birthday is coming up,'" according to the report.

He was convicted of the manufacture and delivery of cannabis and served two days in jail, court records show.

About 200 people attended a vigil Tuesday night at the scene of the shooting in the 6500 block of South Maryland Avenue. Brooks said Jonylah's 19-year-old mother, Judy Watkins, needs the community's support. He wanted the community to come together.

"You can imagine how difficult it is just for [Judy Watkins] to be out here," Brooks said. "Everyone in Woodlawn is not bad. We want everyone to see all of us here together."

Judy Watkins said she wants justice for her daughter.

"I'm looking for him," she said of Jonylah's killer. "When I find him, he's going to jail.”

Judy Watkins' mom, Mary Young, had a message for her granddaughter's killer: "Turn yourself in."

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