WEST ENGLEWOOD — The last time Nicole Williams saw her middle son — 17-year-old Aaron Hubbard — was at Sunday church service on Nov. 3.
The teen parted ways with his family about 12:30 p.m., but was expected at home later that evening.
But around 2:45 p.m., Williams heard someone pounding on the window of her home in the 5900 block of South Marshfield Avenue. A teenage girl from the neighborhood told her Aaron had been abducted near the church and thrown into a silver Dodge Avenger.
Williams, 40, hopped into her car and circled back to Hopewell Missionary Baptist, 6600 S. Hermitage Ave. She scanned the neighborhood and eventually flagged down a police car to report the crime.
Around 3:15 p.m. that day, police in West Englewood found a teenage boy shot to death not too far from where Aaron had been abducted. Williams feared the worst, but found bittersweet relief when police identified the body as Aaron's friend, 17-year-old Corderro Brown.
"I was glad it wasn’t my son," Williams said, "but at the same time, that’s someone’s baby, too."
Williams spent the next week working with police and a local CeaseFire branch to find her son. But on Monday, when her pastor and a police officer showed up at Williams' job, she knew he was gone.
"I saw it in my pastor's face," Williams said.
Aaron had been found shot to death Monday afternoon — the third of three friends to be slain in a 10-day span in West Englewood.
On Nov. 2, 18-year-old Antonio Cooper was found shot to death in a walkway in a backyard in the 6500 block of South Hermitage Avenue. The next day, Corderro's body was found shot and dumped in a rear stairwell in the 6500 block of South Bishop Street. And on Monday — more than a week after his kidnapping — Aaron was found dead in a stairwell in the 5900 block of South Winchester Avenue. He'd been shot in his chest.
While police wouldn't confirm details, families said the three teens had been involved in some kind of altercation — possibly involving a robbery or drugs — and were killed in retaliation.
"I don't know all the details. I just know they got caught up in the wrong situation," Williams said. "My biggest thing is: All our babies are out here dying. For what? Whatever it is, it's not worth killing each other over."
Relatives of Corderro and Aaron said the three teens attended different schools, but knew each other from the neighborhood. Police said Corderro and Aaron may have been in the same gang.
Cooper's family declined to talk to the media.
Relatives on Tuesday were still trying to piece together what went down. Several family members said they thought the boys were put up to "a bad situation" by older friends. Some said they believe the teens were set up. Others said the deaths could've been gang-related, but most denied gang affiliations.
Ultimately, "None of us will ever know because the three people that can answer that — they’re all gone," Williams said. "My heart goes out to the other families because we all lost our kids to something senseless."
'He put up a hell of a fight'
Corderro was a senior at Harper High School and slated to graduate in June. The teen was quiet, goofy and "very, very smart," according to his father, Floyd Sabbs.
Corderro had some legal trouble his freshman year. He was charged with gun possession and sentenced to 1½ years of probation, his dad said. But Corderro had turned things around and was working to graduate on time, according to relatives.
Corderro had two young children: a 1-year-old boy and a girl who just turned 4 months. He loved spending time with his family — hanging out or playing video games — and was looking into affordable college programs.
Relatives knew something was wrong last weekend when Corderro never returned to the house he shared with his aunt in the 5700 block of South Ada Street. On Nov. 4, family was notified that Corderro had been found in a stairwell, badly beaten and shot in his head.
"The police said, whoever did this, [Corderro] put up a hell of a fight," Sabbs, 54, said. "He was fighting for his life. When we went to go see him [at the morgue], the left side of his face was swollen. His eye was blacked and closed. He had a big gash right up under his eye."
During an interview shortly after Corderro's death, his family said they were worried about Aaron, who was missing and probably caught up in the same mess that claimed Corderro's life.
'A hurt you can't put into words'
Aaron was an "average student" at Hyde Park High School, where he had just started his junior year, his mother said. He excelled at math and was excited to try out for the baseball team in the spring.
The teen didn't have a record and has never been in jail, relatives said. They said they believe he got caught up with the wrong crowd and "died from a senseless act."
Aaron was close to his family and could often be found playing Wii dance games with his four siblings. The teen was especially fond of little "Butterball," his chubby nephew.
"He'd say, 'C’mon man, you want to go hang with your uncle?'" Williams said.
“Aaron always wanted to be the big brother — the one that looked over everybody," his mother said. "He was the middle brother, but he always wanted to be the one who knew everything."
Before she began driving to work, Williams said, Aaron would meet her at the train station to walk her home safely after her shift every night.
Losing Aaron is "a pain that you can’t explain. It’s a hurt that you can’t put into words. All I know is I’ve got some closure now because I’ve got my baby. And I just want to put my baby to rest," Williams said.