NORTH LAWNDALE — Jeffrey Triplett, Sr.’s most important gift to his eldest son Jeffrey “Bookie” Triplett Jr. was a love of basketball.
“I kept him out of the streets by giving him a basketball,” Triplett, Sr. said. “I wouldn’t allow him into the streets.”
But the sport wouldn’t be enough to save the 17-year-old from street crime.
The younger Triplett was was killed early on May 26. Two days later, the man who the family believed killed Triplett was also murdered. Authorities have accused Triplett’s mother’s boyfriend in a retaliatory slaying.
Hours before the May 26 murder, Triplett, Jr. was out with his cousin and the cousin's girlfriend who got in an argument with Marley Collins, a man they knew from the neighborhood, Triplett’s family said.
Later, the younger Triplett was killed by a gunshot wound to the back while walking on a sidewalk on the 1500 block of South Millard Avenue with two of his cousins, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office and his family. One of the cousins was also shot in that attack, family said.
The cousins who survived the shootings that killed Triplett identified the shooter as Collins, family said.
“You know everybody that's in your neighborhood,” said Triplett, Sr. “They saw who did it.”
But Collins was never arrested for the teen's murder — he was murdered on Memorial Day, allegedly by the man dating Triplett’s mother, Derrick Miles.
Collins' mother denies that her son had anything to do with the Triplett killing.
“They killed the wrong person and they killed an innocent victim,” she said, adding that Collins was home with her in Cicero when Triplett was killed. She offered to take a lie-detector test.
Triplett, Sr. says Collins’ murder had nothing to do with his son’s killing and that there was no way that Miles, the mother’s fiancé, could have killed anyone that day because he was with the Triplett family at a barbecue in their neighborhood.
Miles is charged with first-degree murder.
Though short in comparison to opponents and teammates, Triplett, Jr. was a starting guard for Manley High School.
Triplett Sr. says that in 2005, he went to play college basketball for Oklahoma Panhandle State University after a stint playing at Morton College in Cicero and took Triplett, Jr. with him.
“We were homesick,” Triplett, Sr. said. “We would come home every other weekend and after a semester, I decided to bring him back home while I finished up there.”
Though Triplett’s parents did not live with each other, they did live on the same block, allowing Triplett to grow up with a huge and close extended family.