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A Look at the Families of Some of This Year's 476 Murder Victims in Chicago

By Tanveer Ali | December 24, 2015 7:52am

CHICAGO —  When it comes to murders, 2015 turned out to be Chicago's bloodiest year since 2012, when the death total went over 500.

Through Dec. 24, at least 476 people were murdered in the city, based on data compiled from the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

The murder numbers have consistently been used by the Chicago Police Department as one of the most important measures by which to gauge violence in the city. For the families of these victims, this year's violence will have a lasting effect beyond this year.

Here are the stories of four families whose loved ones were murdered in Chicago in 2015.

Randy James, 39 (Jan. 3)

The Christmas lights Randy James hung up outside his family's Austin home in 2014 have never been turned off since his murder in January.

"We haven't turned those off once," said Myra James, his 66-year-old mother.

James was Chicago's first murder victim of 2015. He was shot dead a half-mile from his home while on an early-morning walk on Jan. 3.

No one has been arrested.

As in previous years, the James family decked out their front yard in Christmas lights and decorations, but Myra James said there is a void this year without her son, a father of three daughters who worked in construction and would help any family member who needed it.

"He would've been the one who put all of this up," the mother said outside the family's home. "You hear about the gun violence, about families being destroyed by it, but it affects us more now."

Albert Turnage, 23 (Feb. 25)

Albert Turnage's 6-year-old son Jayden is now a first-grader, playing flag football and "doing as well as he can do," said Katie Cangemi, Turnage's former foster parent.

"He had questions about what happened to his dad. We're trying to broach that topic as therapeutically as we can. He knows that Albert died on his birthday," said Cangemi, Jayden's godmother. "He misses his father tremendously. Still when he's asked 'who is your best friend?' he says, 'my dad.'"

Turnage was shot four times in an early morning shooting in the 1700 block of West Touhy Avenue. A friend was shot three times, police said. No arrests have been made in the shooting in which Turnage's family says he was an innocent bystander.

"I have been saying since Albert's funeral what is happening to young black and brown men and women is unconscionable," Cangemi said. "We have a problem with gun violence."

Cangemi says Turnage still has a presence in Jayden's life. Recently while making holiday cookies, the 6-year-old boy was leveling off and measuring off ingredients the way "Daddy taught me."

"None of us will heal completely. His son has lost his father and there's no replacement," Cangemi said. "Jayden was born the day that his father died, his best friend. There's no way that will change."

Demetrius Hill, 19 (May 30)

Had Demetrius Hill still been alive today, he and his four other siblings would be spending a lot of time together, "cooking, cleaning and going out to eat" at places like Golden Corral and Olive Garden, his  sister Damika Hill said.

But since his death in May, the family does little talking to each other despite living in the same South Shore house.

"It's hard for us. We miss our brother. It's hard for us to see pictures or talk about it or get out of bed," Hill said. "They still haven't caught the person who did it."

Hill, 19, was found shot in his head early on a Saturday morning in the hallway of a building in South Shore.

While the family doesn't talk much about what happened, his absence has affected everyone, especially Damika Hill's 3-year-old son, who her brother used to look after.

"Even though he is young, he cries all the time," Damika Hill said. "He notices his uncle is not here."

Hill's murder has also had an effect on how the family thinks about gun violence.

"This is the first death that really, really means something to me," Damika Hill said. "It's more frightening because of what happened."

Martarese Gentry, 15 (June 16)

Six months after Martarese's death, his mother Lakeya Gentry says she feels helpless about the gun violence in Chicago.

"As a mother that lost a son, of course you want to get up and fight any type of way to gun violence in Chicago," Gentry said. "But I can push as much as I could, I don't think it's going to help."

Since Martarese was gunned down on a North Lawndale porch in June, Gentry has worked with various organizations like Project HOPE bringing together mothers affected by gun violence in hopes of spreading an anti-violence message.

But she doesn't see things changing unless more families take responsibility.

"If we tell kids to stop the gun violence, they will continue to be out here to do what they want to do," Gentry said. "I want everyone to get involved. Your son is not dead yet. Your son isn't in jail. Get involved."

With Martarese, who was a student at Gary Comer College Prep, and his two younger siblings, Gentry said she was involved and "sheltered" them from the city's violence.

"With my kids, I don't have to tell them about going out. They are afraid," Gentry said.

The family, which previously moved away from Chicago only to return last year, is planning to move away from the city for good soon.

But before that, they will have one last Christmas in Chicago that will include opening presents.

There's one present for Martarese too this year: a pair of Beats headphones. After Christmas, Gentry plans to find a 16-year-old boy, same age that Martarese would be, and give the present to him.

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