This month, there was another gang story. It was smaller scale, but just as chilling: a 14-year-old boy who aspired to be a member of a Cobb County street gang pleaded guilty to killing two men to steal some marijuana.
I was drawn to figure out what would cause a 14-year-old to do something like that. I pored over the thick case file, talked with prosecutors, the defense attorney, a victim’s mother and a witness.
In the end, it seems it was some twisted rite of manhood. The killings don’t make sense, but then again, they didn’t really surprise those who knew young Jaydon. He was unmoored in life, apparently estranged from a fractured family, and he wanted to be a gangsta. Finally, with one vicious, sneaky act, he became one. And earned himself a life sentence, charged as an adult.
But no good explanation ever surfaced, other than he was an off-kilter and lost soul, a mentally unbalanced — albeit young — sociopath who wreaked damage on those who knew him.
Gail Hargrave came to a Cobb courtroom this month to get answers.
Her son, Sterling Hargrave, 21, was the passenger and Terrance Banks, 23, the driver. The two were letting Jaydon tag along with them, like he was a mascot.
Sterling Hargrave was thought to be associated with the Ham Street Squad, a South Cobb street gang. But he had no criminal record other than traffic offenses. Banks had a DUI and some pot arrests. Both dealt some weed but were not violent.
“My purpose was to go to court and see why he did this heinous crime,” Ms. Hargrave told me. “But he pleaded guilty and didn’t say anything. He had no family there. Nobody was there. He never looked at the family, never said anything. He was just cold.”
Prosecutor Jesse Evans saw no remorse during the plea and said such an ending is not unusual. “I always tell families of the victims ‘Don’t expect to get an answer,’” he said.
Ms. Hargrave said a neighbor told her she had let Jaydon stay at her home the night before, “because he had nowhere to go. My son was feeling sorry for the boy.”
That sense of pity proved to be fatal.
'Had a short-man complex'
Jaydon’s mother, Ursula Monique Kilgore, told police he had been “a difficult and angry child.”
Juvenile officer Sharon Mashburn told investigators he “had been a constant problem and recently spent time in a mental hospital.”
The boy looked up to relatives and neighbors who were members of the Ham Street Squad and was “obsessed” with the gang. Mashburn said he “had a short-man complex and other members of the gang would give him a hard time due to his size.”
The wannabe gangsta acted the part on Twitter and Facebook, posting photos of him flashing money or pointing a gun at the camera. To look at his face, it would appear to be a kid at play.
In the two months before the killings, he wrote, “When I catch ‘em Iman empty this clip on his ass!!!” and “In my whole life all I wanted to do is kill somone.”
Aaron Smith, a guy from the neighborhood, told cops: “It was just a matter of time. He’s just an effing time bomb.”
But Jaydon wasn’t just play-acting. By age 14, he had about 10 “interactions” with juvenile court, including four instances of burglary and a battery. None of it all seemed to sink in.
'He showed me he wasn't playing'
A dog groomer who took care of Terrance Banks’ pit bull said the two doomed men stopped by her home minutes before they died. She was surprised to see a “kid” in the back seat and asked them about it, thinking it odd.
“When I referred to him as ‘this little kid’ his demeanor changed and he showed me his gun,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. “He showed me he wasn’t playing.”
She was shocked to see the boy with a gun and said the two men in front also seemed surprised. However, one of them waved it off, saying, “Oh, that’s my nephew.”
Then they drove off.
Ms. Hargrave said her son told her to move from the area, that it was getting unsafe. The dog groomer had similar concerns and moved away.
“There’s a lot of kids who run around here that no one cares about,” she said. “They don’t care about themselves. They sure don’t care about others.”
The groomer lady has a son the same age as Jaydon and sent him away to live with his father.
“That area was not what I wanted for my son,” she said. “I want him to have something better.”