The graves of the two brothers are side by side. The first- and eighth-born children in a family of 11 sons and daughters, Justin and Matthew Campbell were young men when they were shot and killed, three years apart. Justin, 30, died this year, on Sept. 12 on the South Side. Matthew was just 18 when he was shot in his basement bedroom in December 2009, a mile from where his brother would be gunned down.
The graves of the two brothers are side by side.
The first- and eighth-born children in a family of 11 sons and daughters, Justin and Matthew Campbell were young men when they were shot and killed, three years apart.
Justin, 30, died this year, on Sept. 12 on the South Side. Matthew was just 18 when he was shot in his basement bedroom in December 2009, a mile from where his brother would be gunned down.
In 2012, 82 men and eight women were killed in Columbus. For a handful of those families who got a knock on the door to tell them that a loved one was dead, it wasn’t the first time.
The Campbells are an example of a family for whom it seems that violence is contagious.
Wanda Campbell said she knew that one day she would have to bury at least one of her children.
“God blessed me with my kids for a season, and all things end,” she said at her North Linden home. “So I thank God for the 18 years with Matthew, the 30 years with Justin.”
She expects that one of her nine surviving children also will be lost to violence. But her acceptance is not shared by her other children.Ebony Linville, 23, sister to Matthew and Justin, laments that her family is “dropping like flies.” She wishes they had died from something natural, like cancer or a sickness. Maybe that would have been easier.
“We wouldn’t have to ask who did this or why they did this,” she said. “We wouldn’t have the questions.”No one has been arrested in either death of the Campbell brothers.
Deanna Wilkinson is saddened but not surprised by Wanda Campbell’s feelings of hopelessness for the future. Wilkinson, an associate professor at Ohio State University who has done research on youth violence, said other families have had similar experiences. According to Dispatch records, at least three other families lost yet another member to violence this year.
“If you’ve already experienced a loss, it’s hard not to think it’s going to happen again,” Wilkinson said.
She leads a consortium that established CeaseFire-Columbus, the local model of a Chicago-based organization that tries to reduce shootings and killings. The collaborative, which includes Family Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side, identifies and works with high-risk individuals and families — including those who have lost another member to violence — to help change their thought processes.
“Violence runs in families,” Wilkinson said, “and concentrates in groups of people linked to one another either by blood or relationship.”
An intergenerational cycle develops from father to son, brother to brother, she said. Just as alcoholism can pervade a family, a violent lifestyle can become the norm.
Jacquelyn Bradley thought she had protected her four sons from that lifestyle. But her two youngest never made it out of their teens. Rahim Tye and Kahlief Tye both died at 19, two years apart, in 2003 and 2005.
“I poured (energy) into their life all these years, it seemed to me, all in vain,” she said. “ All the sacrifices, everything. It felt like it was in vain.”
Rahim was shot and killed in Huntington, W.Va. Kahlief was found shot on a street in Mifflin Township. An arrest was made in Rahim’s case, Bradley said, but she still doesn’t know who killed Kahlief, and why.
After losing her second son, she felt like she was losing her mind, Bradley said. She doesn’t know if she could have accepted their deaths better if her boys had been sick. She only knows the violent way of losing a child.
“You only have one of that child, even if you have 10 children,” she said. “You only have one of that special child.
“They were young and full of life, and it was taken from them.”
Since her sons’ deaths, Bradley has reached out to other parents affected by violence through the support group Respect My Life. She has spoken to youth groups through the central Ohio chapter of Parents of Murdered Children. She has gone to Washington with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. She prays with her church.
“It seems like your days are always going to be gray,” she tells grieving parents. “But the sun will shine again. ... If they just hang on, they will get to those days.”
Multiple-loss families such as Bradley’s are not rare, said Jane McKenzie, director of the victim/witness assistance unit with the Franklin County prosecutor’s office.
She sees the families of victims when an arrest has been made. Many more homicides go unsolved; this year, Columbus police cleared 37 of 90 homicides.
How families react to such multiple tragedies varies, McKenzie said.
“Some of them are very bitter and very angry,” she said. “Others are more spiritual or religious about it. Everyone deals with it in the way they’re able to cope with it.”
Mildred McCarter relied on her Bible when her son Larry McCleary was shot at age 21 on the East Side in 1985. He died after six years in a coma.
Twenty years later, she was a grandmother in mourning when her youngest daughter’s 17-year-old son, Arthur Wright, was beaten to death in an East Side apartment on March 6, 2005. Arrests were made in both deaths.
Religion kept her from losing it, McCarter said. She thinks God must have a plan, a reason, why he took her two husbands and three sons through illness and a grandson and son through violence, and yet she is still here.
“God never makes a mistake,” she said. “He permits things to happen. It’ll make you stronger or bitter.”
Wanda Campbell, too, is comforted by her faith. She is confident that Justin and Matthew are safe with God.
“I know mine made it in,” she said.