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Litany of Loss Marked 14-Year-Old Murder Defendant : Oakland: He never knew his father, his mother died and his sister was killed crossing the street. Death of grandmother came next. Police say suspect 'had no values, no goals, nothing.' He is accused of killing two men in seven hours.

July 10, 1994|MICHELLE LOCKE | ASSOCIATED PRESS

OAKLAND — His mother died in 1988; he never knew his father. Five years later, the big sister who looked out for him was killed crossing the street. Last December, the grandmother who reared him dropped dead of a heart attack.

At age 14, police allege, he got hold of a .38-caliber revolver and in seven hours used it to kill two men.

It was a shocking crime--but shocking crimes committed by the very young are common. Generically, we blame poverty, drugs, gangs.

But every young killer has his own history. And beyond what police say was one 14-year-old's violent spasm lurks the story of a life shadowed by death, a story that may offer some explanation, if not expiation.

"He was hurting over losing it all. He had lost it all," said the youth's aunt, Mary Jones.

Police--and the widow of a victim--took a less sympathetic view.

"There's no excuse," said Linda Lee-Hackney, whose husband, Ben Hackney, was the first man shot in the May 27 killings. "I'm sorry that he's only 14, but my sympathy can only go so far."

"The main problem with this fellow is he didn't have any guidance," said Oakland Police Sgt. Paul Berlin. "He had no values, no goals, nothing."

The teen-ager's life had been a litany of loss.

"He's just about the last surviving member of his family," said his lawyer, Kathy Siegel of the Alameda County Public Defender's office.

A virtual orphan, the youth was crushed by the death of his 17-year-old sister, struck by a big rig as she walked to school in April, 1993, Jones said. Within months his grandfather had also died. Then, in December, his grandmother was gone.

"He was devastated," Jones said.

Jones took the teen-ager in. But after so many disruptions, he had trouble adjusting and chafed at her rules and restrictions. The breaking point came in early May when she suspected he had stolen a gun from his grandmother's house.

"He just started lying and lying and I guess he just felt as though he had to run away," she said.

The youth was arrested three days after the killings. Police said he told them he had been living in abandoned cars for weeks, and was broke, hungry and homeless.

"He confessed to both shootings and the reason for both shootings was that he was hungry and was asking people for money and he became angry when they refused to give him money," Berlin said.

Jones reported her nephew missing when he ran away and "the next thing I know the man's been shot," she said, brushing away tears as she sat in a courthouse hallway, awaiting a hearing in her nephew's case.

She could not reconcile the cold killings police described with the nephew she said did well at school and was planning to get a summer job.

"He says he's sorry," she said. "I don't think that he believed that what would happen would happen."

The teen-ager is currently in a county juvenile detention center awaiting trial. Under California law, he must be tried as a juvenile. That means the maximum sentence on conviction would be to serve with the California Youth Authority until age 25.

Siegel believes incarceration isn't the solution.

"What is probably best for everybody's interest is to get this guy some kind of treatment to resolve some of the issues he's had," she said. "Because of limitations in the youth authority resources, that may not necessarily be the best place to do that."

Lee-Hackney isn't moved by the arguments.

"I see kids 12 years old acting as (police) lookouts and some sell crack in this neighborhood. But there are an awful lot of other 12-year-olds and 13- and 14-year-olds who live next door to the crack dealers who don't have anything to do with them," she said.

Her 40-year-old husband was the first victim. He was shot after being confronted in the parking lot of a check-cashing store where his wife worked. He staggered back into the building before her horrified eyes.

The second victim, Derrick Wadibia, 41, of Nigeria, was shot about six hours later as he sat in his cab a few blocks away. A brother was trying to scrape together enough money to ship the body home, Berlin said.

The Hackneys had been married for 12 years and were just turning the corner from hard times of their own, said Lee-Hackney. They had found a nice house to rent and, with the money from her job, were "looking at the day when we wouldn't be on welfare at all."

The afternoon of the murder had been filled with the domestic details of married life. Her husband stopped by to tell her their car finally passed the state-required air pollution test and to get money to pay the electric bill. He was on his way to pick up their daughter when he was confronted.

There was a scream and a shot. Lee-Hackney ran to a window and saw her husband's glasses lying on the ground.

Weeks later, she was still absorbing the loss.

"I still can't believe it," she said. "We had so many things that we were going to do."

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