Mother of homicide victim asks for love over judgment

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 11:12 p.m. CST; updated 11:34 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 19, 2009
Corey Brown, 18, with his son, Jailen, on the day he was born, Aug. 4, 2007. Corey Brown was fatally shot Monday, apparently the victim of a botched robbery attempt.

COLUMBIA – Every night, Sherry Sanders called her son Ronald “Corey” Brown on the phone to “give him a push in the right direction and give him a positive mindset.”

“Every night, I say to him, ‘Be safe, I love you and always do the right thing,’” Sanders said during an interview Thursday morning.

The nightly phone call was a mother’s psychic tether to a son who, she admits, didn’t always make the right choices and paid for them with his years at juvenile detention centers.

On Sunday, Sanders’ phone was broken and she didn’t get to make the call. It weighs heavily on her now.

Early Monday morning, Sanders’ middle son Corey Brown, 18, died after he was shot during what police say was a botched robbery attempt.

On Thursday evening, more than 100 family members, friends and neighbors — some of them standing shoulder to shoulder in the tiny alcove of the Fifth Street Christian Church in central Columbia — listened to stories about Corey Brown and told some of their own. Some wore T-shirts bearing a picture of Corey with his 1 1/2-year-old son. Many of them bore inscriptions — pet names or favorite phrases.

“We like to think that life is long and that we will have an opportunity down the line to do things differently. Corey was making that step, but never got the chance,” the Rev. James Kimbro said during the three-hour memorial service.

There were plans, said his mother, who has a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in criminal justice from Columbia College. He was working on getting his GED and had said he would enroll at Moberly Area Community College in August. An aspiring rap artist, he’d recorded several CDs and had a shot at a record deal with a new label in Sedalia.

He needed money badly. He wanted to take care of his son, Jailen, and his girlfriend, Brittany Gundo, and he wanted the three of them to live together.

“Corey loved his family with everything he had in him, but he loved his friends just as much,” Sanders said. She talked about the “ride together, die together” philosophy of her son and his friends. It worried her.

It was a powerful brotherhood, one that was spoken of often and tearfully during the service by his friends, such as 18-year-old Spuddy Taylor, who remembered how he and Corey Brown met. They were in fifth grade, and a group of guys was beating up on Spuddy. Corey showed up and pushed the guys out of the way.

He liked the image of invincibility, his older brother, Demond Thorpe, told the congregation. But it was a bit of a façade. Thorpe, 22, talked about how his brother would sneak cash to homeless people as he walked by, reluctant to let his friends see his soft side.

But some people got to see his playful side, his lack of vanity. His mother said Corey once grew an Afro so huge that his stepfather didn’t want to be seen with him. He let his friend’s little girls bunch his unruly hair into pigtails for a laugh.

Sanders wanted to let her son be himself. But it wasn’t easy.

That was part of her impassioned message to the people who gathered Thursday night to remember her son — to put love above judgment. “You don’t always have to accept everything about your children, but always embrace them and tell your children that you love them,” she said.

She told the mourners her son’s death wasn’t senseless if it changed one life. And it has, she said — that of a young man whose mother approached her after Corey’s death and said that her own son had vowed to change his life.

As family and friends took their turns at the microphone, Corey Brown’s energetic toddler slipped into the minister’s chair, climbed the stairs and wriggled in the arms of his mother, his grandmother, aunts, uncles — anyone willing and close at hand.

The wriggling stopped when the music played at the end of the service, a song from a father to his son about striving for something better.

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Olepop February 20, 2009 | 6:25 a.m.

United we stand, divided we fall. Young people put the guns and the ideology that you'll ride or die, fight for yours, and shoot your enemy over a smudge on you shoe aside. We all can come together after a senseless death, but at first light does it all have to go back to warring over money and turf? An eye for an eye does nothing but leave two people blind.

Don't believe the hype. Remember when Romeo put out a song, the media said it was against Bow Wow (or maybe it was the other way around)? That was done to sell records. Money shouldn't cause us to have to kill each other. There is enough money out there for us all. Get a job. These wars against people who otherwise could be your cousin or best friend does nothing but tear everybody apart. When it all comes down, every last one of us can sit down next to our so-called enemy and find more in common than we ever believed. And guns do nothing for mending arguments. If you want to honor Corey and show him some love, keep his legacy alive by making yourself better like he wanted to do for himself. Teach his son how to make an honest living like Corey wanted to do. As for the guns, PUT THEM DOWN.

(Report Comment)
sue lewis February 20, 2009 | 8:56 a.m.

Words cannot express how you must feel at this time. Just remember that you knew your son in ways that the world never saw. He is not gone from you, he still lives in your heart and in his son. Insinuations and harsh judgements are meerly the work of Satan from ignorant people that do not know you or your son. So, may God give you the strength to endure this ignorance, the patience to overcome your grief and the peace that awaits you, through God.

(Report Comment)
K Weber February 20, 2009 | 10:28 a.m.

It is a sad thing to lose such a young life. Let's not forget - he lost his life in his pursuit to harm others. To steal, to put fear into others by holding or being with those holding the guns, he was breaking the law without concern for others. It is a terrible thing he was a part of. Unfortunately, this lovely story about a criminal, will not, over shadow what really happened.
I am sorry for his mother that he would do this and hurt her. I am sorry for his son and I hope he is guided to a productive, save and good quality life.

(Report Comment)
G A Miller February 20, 2009 | 11:50 a.m.

Sorry but.....B.S. The collective actions of those 7 boys caused one death and all too likely to ruination of the lives of the other 6. You can't have "plans to turn your life around" you have to do it. Just a bunch of thugs that could have been robbing a store or mugging me on the street.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 20, 2009 | 12:01 p.m.

It is the unspoken law of the street that when you live on that edge expect to leave this earth at any time because you made the choice.

Yes it is bad a young life is gone but he made that choice of his own free will and he knew the consequences of his actions. Do not be fooled he made the decisions leading up to his demise.

You live by the gun you die by the gun as long as you live in that very unforgiving world of the street life and the school of hard knocks.

Maybe this will send a real message to all of his friends and others too of where their present life is leading them.

Peace be unto his family and friends but also the wisdom and the will power to begin to walk away from the life style that led this young man to an early death.

(Report Comment)
Michael Flagg February 20, 2009 | 3:27 p.m.

Dear Missourian, you do realize you have a young murder victim on your front page flashing a gang sign, don't you? And you do know the origin of the “ride together, die together" phrase, right?

Now, I think we would all agree that at this time we definitely should put love over judging him - but you really couldn't find a more appropriate picture?

(Report Comment)
IDK IDK February 22, 2009 | 1:37 p.m.

Okay Michael Flagg, it's not a gang sign, that sign stands for "Peace", so you need to get your facts straight. I knew this man, he was family to me, he was a really good man who had bad luck, but he did whatever he could for his family and to make money quick. I know he didn't make the right choices, but we are all humans we are not perfect, we all fail at certain things and can never accomplish them. But I will be praying for this family and for Corey's soul, so when Jesus comes again he will be saved. Rest in peace my friend.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 22, 2009 | 2:02 p.m.

If that is a peace sign that is one lazy are attempt at a peace sign. When you flash the peace sign you do it with both fingers straight up. You med to get your facts straight.

(Report Comment)
Barbara Fikru February 22, 2009 | 2:23 p.m.

I knew Corey and his family. They were my neighbors for awhile. Corey was always a respectable and kind young man. Sure he had his problems growing up, but I saw him as a young man who was trying to get his life together. My heart goes out to his mother and his family because all life is precious in God's eyes. Sherri has lost her son (contrary to the facts or speculations behind his death or his character). What I want to know is where are your hearts people? Why don't you try your best to dig deep inside of your hearts and try to come up with some compassion for a mother whose child that she carried for nine months and gave birth to is gone forever; for a one year-old son who will have to grow up without his father. The Bible says judge not, so that you are not judge because while you are critizing someone for the speck in his/her eye; try taking the beam out of your own eye first. In other words, if you are not capable of showing this family at the darkest time of their life respect and consideration; maybe you should keep your rude and judgmental thoughts and comments to yourself.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich February 22, 2009 | 2:33 p.m.

"If that is a peace sign that is one lazy are attempt at a peace sign. When you flash the peace sign you do it with both fingers straight up. You med to get your facts straight."

Maybe he's disabled, Charles, and has trouble forming your ideal peace sign? I didn't realize you discriminated so much against the disabled.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 22, 2009 | 3:23 p.m.

My guess, coming from a gun carrying thug who got killed during a botched up drug/money exchange/robbery is that the hand sign is a gang sign for VICTORY and not for peace.
Just visit some websites put out by the gangs themselves or take a look at the "cleanest one" I could find.
(The only "peace" this guy seemed to want was a "piece" of the action.)
(Why would anyone even think this young guy was flashing a peace sign from the Vietnam war days. Gangstas today have a language of their own and will try to cover it up from mainstream America, whenever challenged.
Too bad their secret's out.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 22, 2009 | 4:35 p.m.

Art Vandelay if he had trouble holding his hand up straight then he sure must have had a horrible time holding that gun when needed because he would have put every bullet into the ground wouldn't he?

Oh you did not think of that did you.

Your post is totally m00t by default.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 22, 2009 | 4:40 p.m.

ray shapiro you will appreciate this video I know:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 22, 2009 | 4:52 p.m.

Charles D:
There must be a good reason why that video is called "White Chicks and Gang signs" intead of White Chicks and "Peace" signs.)

(Report Comment)
Demond Thorpe April 13, 2009 | 10:08 p.m.

YOu know something i think its so funny everyone has something smart or brave to say from the security of their homes...well im corey's brother let me ask you this...would you guys have the heart to say these comments to my face? if so contact me i would love to hear it...main point of me writing on here is to tell better yet warn all of you WATCH YOUR WORDS!!!

(Report Comment)

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