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Slain Single Dad's Son 'Doesn't Quite Understand He'll Never See Him Again'

By DNAinfo Staff on July 30, 2013 2:14pm

 Sterling McKenzie was fatally shot in the 7600 block of South Greenwood Avenue in Greater Grand Crossing around 10 p.m. Sunday.
Sterling McKenzie
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ASHBURN — Veronica Jackson doesn't know why her son was in Greater Grand Crossing alone the night he was shot dead.

"We don't have any family over there and he's usually with his friends," the 60-year-old mother said outside the family's Ashburn home Tuesday. "I don't know who did this to him, what happened in the last moments of his life or why he was there."

Sterling McKenzie, 27, was fatally shot in his head Sunday night in the 7600 block of South Greenwood Avenue, miles from his home in Ashburn where he and a male friend lived and raised their respective sons together, Jackson said.

No one has been arrested in the shooting.

A graduate of Curie Metro High School, McKenzie would take his 7-year-old son, Dayton, to Little League games, and recently the father-son duo went to Wisconsin Dells together, Jackson said.

"He's 7 and knows his father is gone, but he doesn't quite understand he'll never see him again," Jackson said.

McKenzie, who played on the defensive line during high school, dreamed of playing in the NFL, and a sign declaring himself the "World's Greatest Football Player" still hangs in his childhood bedroom, his mother said.

But while attending Joliet Junior College, McKenzie learned he had injured his back to a degree that he could never play football again, Jackson said.

He sunk into a yearlong depression before getting a truck driver's license. He made a living doing freelance delivery jobs in the Chicago area.

"He got very depressed about that and spent a year feeling sorry for himself," Jackson said. "But he picked himself up."

A 6-foot-4, 245-pound mass of muscle, McKenzie would only eat fish, plants and dairy after he told his mother several years ago he'd never "eat any four-footed animals."

It was a health decision for a man who had to give up his football dreams but still continued to play basketball whenever possible, Jackson said.

Jackson said her son grew up attending Original Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church, 6550 S. Carpenter St., where he was spent his time performing in the choir. McKenzie's services will be held there from 10 a.m.-noon on Aug. 9.

Jackson said her son has lost many friends to gun violence, including Kenneth Bowens, who lost his life after being shot in January 2012.

The afternoon after McKenzie's shooting, Jackson visited the scene of his death.

"There was not much left there except for some crime tape," she said.

The scene is Just a 10-minute walk from Hirsch Metro High School, where Jackson used to work. Her son often used to remind her how lucky she is that she doesn't work in that neighborhood anymore.

"He used to tell me, 'Ma, I'm glad you don't work at Hirsch anymore. That area is entrenched in violence," Jackson recalled.