Macon, GA (AP) — Six years ago, Laurie Stonewall suffered one of the greatest agonies a parent can face – the death of her child. An only child, Jason Stonewall was a mild mannered young man, a straight A student and a volunteer on the weekend at a local retirement community.
On November 12th, 2004, 15 year old Jason was riding his bike home from school when he was stopped by a man, 32 year old Troy Wilson, who had apparently mistaken him for another local youth who had been dating his sister. Incensed by both the interracial nature of the relationship – the young man was Caucasian and the young woman African American – and the fact that his sister had earlier that morning announced her pregnancy, Wilson had set out to, according to witnesses, “teach that SOB a lesson”. That “lesson”, taught to the wrong pupil, was tragically his last. When Jason announced that he had no idea what Wilson was talking about, Wilson flew into a blind fury and began beating the youth, eventually pounding his head into the sidewalk. Onlookers called 911, but there was nothing that could be done. Stonewall was pronounced dead at the scene.
Wilson was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 60 years. Though nothing could bring back her only son, the ruling was a balm to the wounded soul of Mrs. Stonewall.
But now that wound has been reopened.
Mrs. Stonewall has kept the spot where her son’s death occurred faithfully preserved as a shrine. She had a plaque erected in his honor, and she and other well wishers frequently leave flowers at the site. She visits the spot on a near daily basis, and until now it has brought a measure of peace. But today, looking down the street, she sees a building going up at the end of the block.
The building is a youth center, intended to cater to at risk youths. With gang activity growing in the area, the center hopes to reach some of the youth before they can be recruited, and provide them with both a safe haven and useful tools for their futures.
As admirable as she finds this, Mrs. Stonewall says, it still feels like a slap in her face.
“My son was killed by a black man,” she states. “Killed because he was white. And now, within viewing distance of this terrible crime, they want to put up a building and fill it with more black men. How am I supposed to feel comfortable here? What if one of them wants to exact vengeance on me for getting yet another of their brothers locked up? If this goes through, I just won’t be able to visit this spot anymore. I won’t feel safe.”
Others in the community agree.
“It’s just a basic lack of respect,” says Melissa Setterton. “To put a center for black kids right down the street from where a horrible racially motivated crime took place is galling. I’m not saying they can’t have a center, but there’s a perfectly good empty building at the edge of the city they could use instead.”
Some go even further.
“Get those damned n****** out of this city,” shouted an unidentified man at a local city meeting. “They do nothing but commit crime and vandalize the buildings and kill our good white kids. They’re ruining our way of life here, and I for one am sick of it. I want them out!” This outcry garnered some boos, but significantly more cheers from the assembled community members.
“I just want to be able to visit the site of my son’s murder without having to be reminded day after day of the man who did it,” says Stonewall.