A son shares a message to his mother from his grave
Oct. 17 will mark the eighth anniversary of the tragic murder of Arthur Jones, whom his mother, Rita Perez, of Evergreen Park, affectionately referred to as AJ.
“He died right before my eyes on a Wednesday afternoon,” said Perez. AJ was struck in the neck by the crossfire of two rival gangs. The incident took place in the 800 block of West Garfield Boulevard, in Chicago.
“He’d taken school pictures just four hours before his murder,” said Perez. “Looking at that picture is still difficult. It’s like seeing him in transition because I know it was taken right before he’s about to leave me.” He was her youngest of nine children at the time. She’s given birth to 11, who range in age from 4 to 24.
Perez said AJ slipped out to get candy from a nearby corner store with his best friend. His death marked a literal awakening in her life. “I wasn’t feeling well that day, I’d fallen asleep. I awoke to the screams of my older son rushing me to AJ’s side a block away.”
She said being at the scene haunted her.
“Had it been any other day, I wouldn’t have been home. I would’ve been off somewhere high on crack or drunk.”
Perez said it was the deep wounds of sexual molestation that began at the age of 5 by the hands of a family member that caused her to self-medicate with narcotics. AJ was taken by gun violence but five of her daughters were taken by the state as a result of that dependence.
“I didn’t see a way out of my addiction,” said Perez. “I was planning my funeral. I told people exactly how I wanted to be buried. I couldn’t stay sober for four minutes but after losing AJ, I went to rehab. I’ve been clean five years and four months. I’m a walking miracle!”
Now that she's clean, Perez said she’s dedicated her life to her faith. She worships at Maranatha Chapel at 9731 S Pulaski. She also takes part in a support group called Compassionate Friends, through Little Company of Mary Hospital, and volunteers for various organizations. “I do a lot of charity work that involves photography,” said Perez.
That’s how I crossed paths with Perez. She approached me after recognizing we have the same camera brand, Nikon.
“That’s a nice camera, I have one almost identical” she said.
I smiled. “Thanks. I enjoy it,” I replied. I thought that was the end of our chitchat but she closed a gap between us. “Mine was stolen recently. Do you mind helping me,” she asked?
I had no idea how I could possibly help but I listened further. As she began sharing her story, it became more and more intense.
“A little boy stole my camera. I saw him take it and run off,” explained Perez. She said she canvased the neighborhood until she found where he lived.”
“You did your own door-to-door investigation,” I asked?
“I was determined to get my camera back. it took me six hours but I found him,” said Perez.
She found HIM, but not the camera!
“I knew he took my camera, I saw him. But he wouldn’t admit that to me or his mother so I filed a police report.” Perez said the officer who took her information displayed little confidence of her camera ever being recovered. He also told her she would need the serial number, which she wasn’t sure how to find.
“Do you still have the box your camera came in,” she asked?
“I have my box but I’m unsure which number is the serial number. Will you please take my information and let me know which number on your box matches the number on your camera,” she begged?
“Sure,” I said. I was not optimistic she’d get her camera back but I didn’t let on. She had an immoveable faith.
“These are hard times for people. Someone is going to pawn my camera,” she said audaciously.
I admired her spunk. I called her that evening with the information, wished her the best and hung up the phone. Within 24 hours she came calling back. “This is Mrs. Perez, you won’t believe what’s happened. I gave the detective my serial number and she found my camera at a pawn shop on 47th and King Drive.”
I was floored.
On the surface, our paths crossed for me to assist in the retrieval of her camera. But, I felt there was more so I pressed until I found it.
I discovered several news stories about AJ. “There are at least 14,” said Perez. In many, Perez told reporters, just as she told me, AJ wanted to be a pastor. Well, he has a message alright and it seems he orchestrated a way to share it from the grave.
The little boy that allegedly took Rita Perez’s camera is 10 years old and also referred to as AJ! That AJ put a series of events in motion that would lead Mrs. Perez to me, on the cusp of the eighth anniversary about the murder of her AJ.
I believe Arthur Jones wants people to know his story. Through his death, his mother reclaimed her life. He died but now she lives a life she says is dedicated to Christ.
From the lyrics of Big Daddy Weave’s song, “My Story”, he sings, “If I told you my story, you would hear hope that wouldn’t let go. And if I told you my story, you would hear love that never gave up. And if I told you my story, you would hear life, but it wasn’t mine. If I should speak then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin, of when justice was served and where mercy wins. Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in, oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.”
Well done AJ, well done!