Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Murder charges set after drive-by victim, 3, dies
One of the suspects is a son of notorious Flip Williams, who was executed in 2005.
YOUNGSTOWN Cherish Moreland won't ever again sit in her tiny pink Dora the Explorer chair and watch TV.
Her mother said there was never much hope that the 3-year-old full of energy and mischief could survive being shot in the head.
City Prosecutor Jay Macejko said he would upgrade today the two suspects' felonious assault charges to aggravated murder.
"The doctor said there was no blood flowing to her brain," Cherish's 37-year-old mother, Charlotte Moreland, said Monday afternoon outside her Hilton Avenue home.
"The bullet hit on the left side [above the ear] and went out the right side of her brain."
Charlotte, called Charlie by her friends, said she and Cherish's father, Damon Christian, 30, were told by doctors that their child had to be taken off life support while her heart was still beating in order to preserve organs to donate. Although brain dead, the child was kept alive by artificial means until the parents gave permission. She was taken off life support late Monday night at Akron Children's Hospital.
Inside Cherish's South Side home, her pink Dora the Explorer chair sat empty near the TV. Her mother, tears welling, said the doctors told her that she will be able to keep in touch with whomever receives the little girl's organs.
"I had 10 children," Charlotte Moreland said, noting Cherish had six brothers and three sisters.
"She was put in a private room, we were able to touch her and pray," Derrick Earvin, an uncle, said outside the child's home. "The doctor said she was just too weak to survive."
Earvin described Cherish as energetic, very smart, not hard to please and "the tiniest little thing, too small to hurt" anyone or anything. She liked to play with her dolls and draw, ride her bike and be mischievous.
"You would not forget Cherish if you met her," her uncle said. He said he was with Charlie on Saturday night when the call came that Cherish had been shot.
Cherish, who celebrated her third birthday April 2, was the victim of a drive-by shooting late Saturday night outside 1473 Stewart Ave. Charlotte said her nephew, Joseph Moreland, lives at the apartment on Stewart.
Charlotte said Cherish had been at her aunt's house on Sunshine Avenue and they walked holding hands to Joseph's place on Stewart. When the bullet hit, Cherish's aunt felt the little girl's fingers slip away.
Officers found the little girl with beads in her hair lying in the grass, crying.
Two men accused in the crime were arraigned Monday in municipal court on felonious assault charges.
Bond was set at $1 million each for Damon K. Clark Jr., 22, of Dogwood Lane and Stoney Williams, 18, of Dorothy Avenue. Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly set a preliminary hearing for next Tuesday.
Detective Sgt. John Kelty said Williams is a son of Willie "Flip" Williams, who was executed in prison in October 2005 for the shooting deaths of four men in Youngstown in 1991.
Kelty credited the teamwork of Patrolmen P.J. Chance, Jerry Fulmer, Mike Marciano and Robert Joliff, first officers on the scene, for the quick arrests. Williams turned himself in to police.
Kelty said the event Saturday night at the Stewart Avenue place was a Moreland family gathering.
Earvin called what happened a family tragedy.
Charlotte Moreland said Damon Clark and Joseph Moreland "had it out" because Damon had testified against Darrin Moore in a murder case and Moore's cousin was at the Stewart Avenue apartment. She said there was anger because Clark spent so little time in prison and just got out.
She said her nephew, Clark, left the apartment and later drove by with Williams, who fired two shots at the house, one of which hit Cherish.
Court records show Clark was granted judicial release in January and placed on three years' community control. Kelty said Clark will be charged with parole violation.
In June 2006, Clark was sentenced to two years in prison for carrying a concealed weapon and burglary. He was given credit for 207 days served in the county jail.
The sentence was concurrent with a receiving stolen property conviction from a 2003 case that included the murder of 29-year-old Robert Smith who was killed outside an East Side bar. Clark had been charged with complicity to murder but that charge was dismissed when he agreed to be a witness for the prosecution against the shooter, Moore, now 22.
Cherish's killing was Youngstown's 11th homicide of 2007. There were nine at this time last year.
Other young children in Youngstown who were victims of gun violence:
Jiyen C. Dent Jr., 3 months old, died after being shot in the head with an AK-47 while in a baby swing in his parents' living room on Rutledge Drive in March 2003. John Drummond was convicted as the trigger man in the drive-by shooting.
Jessica Ballew, 3, of Oak Park Drive, died after being shot in the head and chest on the porch of her apartment during a drive-by shooting June 11, 1996. Three adults were wounded. Sidney Cornwell was convicted as the shooter.
Source: Vindicator files