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Hadiya's King Classmates Express Relief, Hope After Murder Charges

By Geoff Ziezulewicz | February 13, 2013 11:34am | Updated on February 13, 2013 3:04pm

KENWOOD — Students, parents and teachers at Kenwood's King College Prep High School expressed relief Wednesday that suspects have been arrested and charged in the January slaying of classmate Hadiya Pendleton.

Rhonda Leavy, 15, said she was so happy that she cried when she heard the news this week of the arrests of Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20.

The two alleged gang members reportedly fired at 15-year-old Hadiya and a group of students after school on Jan. 29 at nearby Vivian Gordon Harsh Park, thinking they were rival gang members, authorities said.

Ward and Williams were arrested Sunday and ordered held without bond Tuesday.

The arrests help the healing process, Rhonda said.

“I kind of feel like closure after the burial and funeral,” Rhonda said outside the school. “But it’s hard knowing she’s not going to be in school.”

One senior who asked not to be named said she knew Williams when the suspect attended King.

She was a freshman when he was a senior, she said.

"He was a sweet person," she said. "He had friends, but he was never into anything like band."

After dropping her two seniors off at the school, Seye Simpkins, 42, said the arrest of Ward and Williams in connection to Hadiya’s murder does offer kids some solace.

But, she said, all the publicity “doesn't give the children time to truly grieve.”

“It’s so much to take in,” Simpkins said.

Sheryl Wright, 16, said she felt justice was served with the arrests.

“It’s still hurting,” Sheryl said. “But knowing she’ll get justice helps.”

Hadiya’s death has become a national rallying point for gun-control advocates and politicians, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama among them.

Sheryl said she hopes all the attention will lead to real efforts to curb Chicago’s gun violence.

“There’s still violence in Chicago,” said Sheryl’s friend, 15-year-old Karl Germany. “And we still have to be careful.”

Lawrence Pearson, an 18-year-old senior who said he is working on a documentary about Hadiya, said he had mixed feelings about the arrests, since Hadiya is still gone.

“I felt relieved,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a lose-lose situation.”