This article was published in collaboration with Vice.
Two years ago, on March 24, 2015, Cheryl Hayes’s son, Anthony, a 27-year-old letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Chicago, was shot to death inside his car in the 2800 block of West Warren Boulevard. It was early morning, and he was leaving for work. The homicide, one of more than 1,300 in the city over the past two years, remains unsolved.
Will it ever happen? Will this guy ever get arrested?
I called the postal inspector today — he’s investigating the case with the Chicago police because Anthony was on his way to work when he was shot. We text once a week, I’ll ask him what’s going on. I never really go too deep into it because I know there’s only so much that he can tell me — or maybe that I want to hear. I still believe police will arrest someone. I try to stay patient and give them time to do their job.
It’s been two years, and it still scares me thinking an arrest could happen.
When the case goes to court, I know I’d be confronted with a lot of the details about how Anthony died. Meanwhile, I write things down in a journal a friend sent me. It has roses on the cover and says, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.”
The first day I wrote in it was the Tuesday of Anthony’s burial: “After a week of planning I had to give my baby boy back to God. Mom loves you so much. My heart aches but with much prayer for strength, my ache will lift. Love you, mom.”
On the first anniversary of Anthony’s death, I added, “Today is the day of your untimely death. … You are the best son a mother could ask for … I will write more later.”
I wasn’t able to go to his burial plot that day. It was bad weather out. I just wrote to him throughout the day, promising, “Will try to come next week.”
This month, I wrote, “Feeling sad, wanting to cry. I see visions of you lying sleeping in your casket. I never would have thought I would have to bury you. I miss you so much. You are so missed by everyone. Love/Miss u Mom.”
I’ve also written what I might want to say when I confront this evil person.
I don’t want to forget anything. I wrote about the night before it happened: Anthony lived downstairs, and I heard the front gate close with a bang. I always asked him to hold the gate so it would close quietly, but he insisted on letting it go, and I could hear it in the back of the house. I looked out the window that night, saw Anthony retrieve his phone charger from his car. I didn’t know this was the last time I would see my son alive.
I would give anything to hear the front gate close with a bang again.
When I got to the crime scene after the shooting, Anthony was already dead. There was yellow tape, and I could not actually walk up to the car. I wondered, though: Did he call my name?
Later, when I went to identify Anthony's body, the medical examiner prepped me by warning that his eyes and mouth would be open. When she revealed him, my ex-husband immediately fell on the floor. I just looked and shook my head and said, “That’s him.” I suspect he didn’t have time to think or even blink.
It just haunts me that I couldn’t keep my child safe. I don’t even know how many times Anthony was shot, and I’m not sure I want to. All I know is that there were about 11 bullet holes in the car. You can actually count them if you pull that picture up from the news photo on the Internet. I pulled it up for the first time this year. It was the first time I could actually look at it.
At first I couldn’t stand to read or look at anything about the case. But since then I’ve seen all the messages of condolences on the poster boards his friends had put up outside the house on the day it happened. I took them down that night because it was going to rain the next day, brought them in the house, and turned them towards the wall. This past August was the first time I could actually turn them around again.
There were about six poster boards, the big white ones. They’re downstairs on his bed. We still haven’t rented out his apartment.
I still talk about Anthony. We laugh about him a lot. I always looked at pictures—a lot of family members say it’s hard to look at pictures, but I still do. I have pictures of him on my phone. I have pictures of his headstone, too.
I’m reminded about the violence in Chicago every day. It’s always on the news. Someone’s child is getting shot. Everyone is always talking about Chicago, even the president. I think everyone in Chicago is stressed out; we’re tired of being in the news. I’m at the point now where I’m not saying I’m immune to all the shootings, but I just have to turn the channel when the news comes on. It used to make me cry. I know I need to get involved and speak out against all the shootings, but right now I just turn the TV to the Weather Channel or sports or something. I can’t take it.
My therapist told me after the first anniversary of Anthony’s death, “You will start moving forward, Cheryl.” And I did a little bit. I started moving a little forward. But like I tell everybody, time is the only thing that will get you through it.
Once in awhile, I read what I wrote in my journal to see how far I’ve come.