CHICAGO — Sobbing outside a Cook County courtroom where her son was ordered held without bail for the murder of a taxi driver, Trisha Howard fell into the outstretched arms of a man representing the family of slain Edwin Obazuaye.
"I am sorry, sorry," she cried, as a man who identified himself as Obazuaye's cousin cradled her.
Howard's son, Eric Taylor, 28, is accused of robbing and killing 48-year-old Obazuaye, an unlicensed cab driver, near the intersection of 91st Street and South Lafayette Avenue.
In court Friday, prosecutors said Taylor and another man ordered a taxi to the 8500 block of South Parnell Street about 5:40 p.m., March 14.
When they got into the cab and Obazuaye started driving, Taylor and the other man demanded money, Assistant State's Attorney Melissa Samp said. But Obazuaye refused to hand over any cash and continued driving while looking for police.
The two men found themselves stuck in the taxi, unable to open the rear door because of the vehicle's child-proof locks, Samp said. Taylor then started to "pistol whip" Obazuaye before firing the gun through the back of his seat, Samp said.
Prosecutors said a witness saw Taylor and the other man crawl out of the taxi through a broken window and flee.
Cook County Judge Israel Desierto ordered Taylor held without bail.
As he was being led out of the courtroom by a sheriff's deputy, Taylor mouthed the words "I didn't do it." His mother's cries grew louder.
"After he got shot, he never been the same," Howard said after the hearing. "He's no angel. But I didn't raise him like that. He's not a bad person, he just got caught up."
She said Taylor was robbed and shot in the head in 1999. When he was found near the intersection of 48th Street and Vincennes Boulevard, his shoes and clothes had been taken.
Taylor survived but the bullet left him disabled, Howard said, explaining that her son now has the mental capacity of a child.
Taylor's girlfriend and the mother of his 2-year-old child, who did not want to give her name, said while he may have been in Obazuaye's cab, "Eric didn't pull the trigger."
Both Howard and Taylor's girlfriend believe he was manipulated to participate in the crime by the other man, who is related to the girlfriend.
"It's a bad nightmare," Howard said.
As she struggled to find the right words to express her grief, a tall man dressed in a suit approached.
Howard introduced herself believing the man to be a family member of the slain taxi driver.
The man, who identified himself only as Obazuaye's cousin, confirmed Howard's belief and opened his arms to receive the hug she was offering.
"There's nothing I can say to bring him back," she said, crying again.
Obazuaye, of the 400 block of East 167th Street in South Holland, died later at the hospital after suffering a heart attack, leaving behind a wife and a 5-year-old son.
"He's a wonderful man. He died trying to provide for his family," said Jim Otokiti, president of Chicago's Akugbe-Oretin Club, a group of immigrants included Obazuaye who moved from a part of southern Nigeria.
"He was very well-liked in our community," Otokiti said. "One of the reasons why this was so painful is if this happened to someone else, Edwin would have been one of the frontrunners figuring out how to pay for the burial."