Streets of sorrow

Boston's murder survivors: nine familes, nine stories
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  May 9, 2007

0705011_murder_main1
MAKESHIFT MEMORIAL to Eddie Williams, father of two.

Two years ago, in one of the most concentrated bursts of deadly violence Boston had seen in years, nine victims were killed in 20 days.

Arrests have been made in only three of those nine slayings, with two of the three ending in convictions and prison time. That is more or less representative of what the city has come to expect.

The three-week bloodbath in the spring of 2005 marked the start of a crisis that shows few signs of abating. By the end of that year, the city saw more murders than it had in a decade. That number was nearly matched in 2006, and the pace has continued this year.

To lend shape to what these numbers mean — to the real price, in human terms, of spiraling violence and a broken criminal-justice system — the Phoenix decided to revisit the nine murder cases we reported on two years ago.

James Funches: “we end up with a bunch of angry kids”
The first of these nine murders was one of the strangest of 2005, and police have never given any indication of what, if anything, they have unraveled about it.

The story broke first in the late morning of March 14, as a fire at the Whittier Street Housing Development in Roxbury Crossing. It ended with the discovery of 73-year-old James Funches’s body in his apartment, beaten and strangled, along with his 27-year-old grandson DeRonn, who had been shot in both legs. Reportedly, DeRonn had set the fire to signal for help — but had also barred entry by shoving an appliance against the door.

“I almost feel like it’s a storybook, or like I’m watching Law & Order,” says the Reverend James L. Funches, son of the murder victim and uncle of the shooting victim.

The Boston Police Department (BPD) was unwilling to discuss details of this case, or any of the pending cases, with the Phoenix for this article. “My need for investigation and the public’s need for information are not always the same,” says Deputy Superintendent Daniel Coleman, who has led the homicide unit of the BPD since 2003.

One person who presumably knows how Funches died, if not who killed him, is DeRonn, who was shot in the same apartment but survived. Coleman will not discuss whether DeRonn, who still lives in Boston, has assisted authorities. Promising to keep the cooperation secret, Coleman says, is often the key to getting a witness to help police in the first place.

That makes sense, but it leaves the reverend in the dark. It is believed that three men committed the assaults, but few other details are known. The reverend, for one, believes the killers came to the apartment to get something — perhaps money, drugs, or information — from DeRonn, who has a criminal record. In horrific fashion, he speculates, they shot DeRonn in the legs, and beat and strangled his grandfather, as methods of persuasion.

If true, that level of violence and intimidation should make catching the perpetrators a top priority, says the reverend.

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Related: A return to the shooting gallery, A close call, Framed?, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Criminal Sentencing and Punishment, Crime, Dwayne Graham,  More more >
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