SOUTH SHORE — Before her son was shot to death on one of the summer’s bloodiest nights, Rekeia Williams lamented Chicago’s violence on Facebook.
“About a year ago, I posted on Facebook that with so many murders in Chicago, and we’re losing so many lives, I don’t ever want to put my son on a T-shirt,” Williams said.
Six months after Antonio Alves was shot to death in Humboldt Park, Williams put his face, not on a T-shirt, but on a billboard overlooking a stretch of Pulaski Road in West Garfield Park.
The billboard features Alves’ face and a message: “Happy 19th Birthday, Lil-Tony. Your legend lives on.” The phrase “Tone World,” with a money bag as the first “o” is prominently featured.
The sign is more than a birthday greeting, however. Williams hopes it will spur someone to share information about her son’s killer. The billboard went up Jan. 17, and cost $1,500 for a month. Williams hoped to partner with Cook County Crime Stoppers to offer a reward for information, but hasn’t been able to nail down an agreement.
Williams said she hopes the billboard will jumpstart the investigation into Alves’ death, which she said has stalled.
Since Alves’ death, Williams said she has gone to the Town Hall Police District headquarters on the 10th of every month hoping for a breakthrough in her son’s case. Each time she’s left empty-handed, she said.
The lack of progress has left her frustrated and feeling like her son has become no more than “murder No. 250” to a Police Department that saw 421 homicides last year, she said.
“I just hate the fact murders are becoming like car accidents and parking tickets; they don’t really mean much anymore. It’s like another piece of paper for [police] to have to file away,” Williams said.
Williams said she was hands-on with her son and his friends, calling herself a “pop-up mom,” unafraid to pop up and check out Alves’ friends and where they were hanging out. It helped her get to know his friends, she said.
But she left him alone on Aug. 10, the night he was killed at a Humboldt Park block party.
“He said there were girls everywhere, and he was having fun,” Williams said. “So I decided not to bother him.”
When she heard Alves had been shot, she raced to the West Side and learned he’d been taken to Stroger Hospital.
“There were two gunshot victims: One survived and one did not. See if you can ID him,” she recounted a doctor saying. After the doctor pulled back the sheet revealing her son’s lifeless body, she sat with him for an hour in complete silence.
Alves was with a 24-year-old man in the 1000 block of North St. Louis Avenue when he was shot multiple times, authorities said. While the other man was critically wounded, Alves was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital at 10:49 p.m., authorities said.
Williams said he’d been shot 10 times from behind.
Absorbed in her grief and her commitment to finding her son's killer, Williams has yet to return to her job as a paralegal since Alves’ death.
Sitting at her kitchen table, she flipped through a notebook stuffed with papers and dozens of photos from her son’s autopsy.
“They didn’t want me to have these. They said I’d be traumatized,” she said pointing to a black-and-white picture of her son’s left hand with a giant gash where a bullet had pierced his skin.
When she was planning her son’s funeral, she asked a detective if her son's hands could be displayed at the service. She said the detective told her it would be fine because her son hadn't been shot in his hands.
“He didn’t know he was shot in the hand. How did the detective miss that?” she asked.
“It’s heartbreaking. I feel like my son deserves a full investigation,” she said.
Chicago Police spokesman Adam Collins, though, said detectives "investigate every murder, whether it happened last week or last year, with the same thoroughness.
"Chicago Police Detectives work tirelessly to solve every murder to bring justice to criminals and closure to victims and their families," he said.
Collins urged anyone with information on the case to call detectives at 312-744-8261.
Whether or not the billboard helps solve Alves’ murder, Williams said she hopes her son’s “legend” will live on in other ways.
“The billboard is the first thing. I’m also trying to start a foundation to give out school supplies, maybe in the summer, maybe do a toy drive in the winter just to keep his name active,” she said. “I’m just not giving up on this.”