May 714, 1998
cover story|Dispatches From The Drug War: The fourth in an occasional series about Philadelphia's flourishing underground drug economy.
Dispatches From The Drug War:
The fourth in an occasional series about Philadelphia's
flourishing underground drug economy.
It was a low-profile murderanother young black male shot over drugs. But the victim's mother wasn't about to let anyone, including the mayor, forget that Emir Peter Greene was still somebody's son.
by Mark Naymik
Heading toward her car, she walks to a nearby building, pounds on its glass windows and lets out a mighty scream. "Why, Jehovah, did you not watch over my son tonight?"
Victoria Greene is home, upstairs in her bedroom, filling her customer's Mary Kay orders. She sells cosmetics, mostly in the evenings, to supplement the modest income she earns as a social worker at the city's prison. She has always maintained some type of side business to help pay for her five children's summer camps, schooling, pictures and prom dresses.
Ultimately, she wants to earn enough money to move from her three-story rowhouse on Manheim Street, just west of Germantown Avenue. She is tired of living here, the Brickyard, as everybody calls it.
A mix of working poor families, welfare moms and self-employed fix-it guys populate the Brickyard, long the epicenter of drug activity in the larger Germantown neighborhood.
On this clear and cool Wednesday evening, March 26, 1997, she is too busy working on her computer to notice cop cars racing through the Brickyard toward Rubicam Street, just a few blocks away.
Philadelphia police officers from the city's 14th Police District arrive from all directions at the 5200 Block of Rubicam Street. Just minutes before, at 10:10 p.m., someone called 911 operators to report hearing gunshots.
Little does Victoria know that these gunshots will change her life forever.
Emir's name remains on a mural at Second and Callowhill Streets.
Police officers discover the body of a black male lying in the street between two cars. The body, dressed in a large black nylon jacket, an orange windbreaker, jeans and New Balance shoes, is face down, the head just a few feet from the curb.
One of the first officers on the scene recognizes the victim, whom he has seen before in the area, but he does not know his name.
Paramedics remove the victim's black nylon coat so they can try to revive the victim and prepare him for transport to the hospital.
An officer rifles through the coat looking for possible identification, but finds no wallet. The officer does find, in the right front pocket, 10 small packets containing what appear to be crack cocaine.
Investigators from the Mobile Crimes Unit, which collects physical evidence, locate and mark the positions of 10 empty shell casings, and two bullets. The markers are spread out across the chalk outline of the victim's body, suggesting the shooter might have been moving when the gun was discharged.
Homicide detectives Bob Konczyk and Robert Weaver are dispatched to Rubicam. Not officially partners, Konczyk and Weaver often work similar shifts, and have worked many cases together in their roughly two-and-one-half years as homicide detectives. It is their job to find witnesses.
On the scene, Konczyk, a cordial man with glasseswhose six-foot-plus frame might be intimidating in a game of good-cop-bad-copflips open his secretary-styled notepad and records the weather conditions, the first bit of evidence.
He also remarks to Weaver that this shooting does not look like a duck, a term homicide detectives use to describe cases that can be easily cleared.
A duck case needs a witness, someone who can easily identify a shooter. Weaver calls them "eyeball" witnesses. On Rubicam Street, the darkness and isolation of the crime scene play against finding such a witness.
Residents on Rubicam and adjoining streets tell police varying stories about what they heard and saw. Some people report hearing only five shots, some say they heard two volleys of about five shots. One resident claims to have seen a jeep-like vehicle and a black sports car on the street following the shots.
Another resident, who lives 100 yards from the scene beyond a wooded area, claims to have seen someone with a gun running from the scene. The closest witness to the scene, an elderly man who has lived on the block for 35 years, was asleep when he was awakened by the sound of gunshots. He did not look outside until he heard the alarm sound on his Dodge Caravan.
The man's son-in-law was home at the time and also looked out the window. He says he saw a body between his and his father's car and then called police.
None of the residents can identify a shooter, so Konczyk and Weaver know they will have to rely on the victim's family for the leads.
When paramedics roll up to Albert Einstein Medical Center, doctors cannot do much for the Rubicam shooting victim. Shot seven times in the back, the victim did not have a chance. The 9-mm bullets pierced his liver, lungs and aorta, the largest blood vessel in his 187-pound body. A surgical team waiting at the scene of the crime could not have saved him.
A doctor pronounces the victim dead at 10:35 p.m., making him the city's 126th homicide in the first 85 days of 1997.
The nurse learns the beeper belongs to 20-year-old Emir Peter Greene, Victoria Greene's only son. Before the nurse can call the house, the sender, a friend of Emir's, calls the Greene household and delivers the news.
Victoria is home, finishing her work when the phone rings. She is shaken by the news and calls the hospital. The nurse refuses to describe the victim's condition, but she does describe the victim's clothing, including an orange windbreaker.
"I know it's him," says Ayanna, one of Victoria's four daughters, who is near the phone. She had lent her brother an orange jacket, and now fears the worst. She is so sure that the shooting victim is her older brother that she refuses to go to the hospital with her mother and family to make a positive ID.
On the way to the hospital, Victoria's gut is telling her that Emir is gone. In the car, she tells her oldest daughter Chantay, "He died. I feel like his spirit already left my body."
Victoria finds Emir on a gurney in the hospital's trauma room. He is dead. Victoria stares at his body. She stares at the exit wounds that mar his muscular chest. She stares at a clear fluid that drains from one wound and traces the curve of her son's ribcage.
"I'm seeing the last bit of life run out of him," she thinks.
Before leaving, she pulls a sheet over her son's body, but she does not cover his head. Emir's closely cropped hair, high cheekbones, short beard and bright-white teeth gave him a distinguished, handsome look, a look she wants to remember. So she tucks the sheet neatly under his chin, as she did years ago when Emir was a baby.
More of her family and friends arrive at the hospital, and they too look over Emir's body. Then Victoria remembers that Ayanna is home alone, so she calls her. Ayanna is calm, and tells her mother, "It's all right now. He never has to worry about his friends. He won't have to look over his back."
As Victoria's family prepares to return home and begin searching for answers, Victoria collapses into her boyfriend's arms and needs a few minutes to rest before leaving the hospital. But once outside, grief and rage overtake her. Heading toward her car, she walks to a nearby building, pounds on its glass windows, and lets out a mighty scream. "Why, Jehovah, did you not watch over my son tonight?"
Driving home, Victoria's second oldest daughter, Altovise, who is a Philadelphia police officer, drives by the crime scene. When she pulls up, she discovers the same darkness and isolation her department co-workers noted earlier. "Nobody saw anything," she sobs as she stares at the Rubicam Street crime scene.
At home, where pictures of Victoria Greene's children crowd together atop the small end tables in the front room, Victoria is despondent. "I don't want to live. There is no point," she tells them. Her tone is so convincing her children collect her prescription medicine in a bag and remove the kitchen knives. Then they begin to examine what might have happened.
A prom photo of Emir.
Ayanna tonight confirms what Victoria and the family suspected: Emir sold drugs.
The family saw the signs, some more obvious than others. Emir, not known to use drugs, did not hold a regular job, yet he could afford nice clothes. (Nothing flashy: he favored Bugle Boy khakis, never gold jewelry.) He owned $600 junkers, yet at times drove his friend's black Lexus.
Emir's personality was far from that of a young man hardened by the streets. In fact, he addressed people in the neighborhood as "Fam," short for family. He helped mothers carry groceries, but mostly just made people laugh with his infectious smile. But he had a mean streak.
His family and friends called him "skunny." It was hardly an intimidating name, especially if you knew its origins. According to Victoria, the name is a veiled reference to a skunk. She says he often messed his diapers as a child, and therefore "stunk like a skunk."
Emir had been staying away at night, usually crashing at his girlfriend's home. Yet he was starting to come around more, despite some tension that had developed between him and his mother over his absences.
Weeks before the shooting, Victoria stopped the two beat cops who walked her neighborhood and knew her son. She asked if they knew if Emir was selling. The officers told her they had no evidence that he was. "He's hanging around the wrong people," they said.
Emir's older sister, Altovise, also suspected. She confronted Emir more than once. Each time, they'd end up arguing. "Just because you a cop, you think you know everything," he'd say.
Emir's long-time girlfriend, Wadeedah, eight months pregnant with Emir's baby, also knew. Emir never talked about his business much, but she knew.
At home, it doesn't take long for the family to name a suspect. They figure the shooter has to be Emir's friend Steve Holiday, with whom Emir was last seen.
Steve, also 20, lives just east of Germantown Avenue, not far from the 5200 block of Rubicam. He would come around to the Greene household a couple of times a week to pick up Emir. The two were friends, but Emir also worked for Steve selling drugs. Steve was just one step up on the street's corporate ladder. Someone fronted Steve, who, in turn, supplied Emir with his drugs.
It was Steve's Lexus that Emir drove. Steve didn't mind because he drove other cars, including a black Camry station wagon, a Blazer, and an older burgundy station wagon.
Just hours before Emir was shot, he visited Wadeedah, who also lives in Germantown. She was in bed because she had to work the next morning. From her room, Emir made a few phone calls, including one to his sister Ayanna. He told her a man was going to stop by their house with $40. He wanted her to hold it until he returned home. Steve came to Wadeedah's house and picked up Emir.
Around 10 p.m., Emir returned home. He saw his sister Aja and collected the $40 from Ayanna. Victoria was upstairs working, and didn't hear him come in. Ayanna watched Emir leave and get into a black car with Steve, who drove toward Germantown Avenue.
That was the last time she saw her brother alive.
Victoria and her family tell detectives Konczyk and Weaver everything in the following days. The detectives need to know every rumor and every suspicion. Victoria also gives Konczyk a picture of her son, which the detective tapes to the inside cover of his notepad.
Victoria calls the detectives nearly every day. When they work the late shift, she sets her alarm clock to wake her in the middle of the night so she can call.
Although the media barely notices the murder, which receives a one-line mention in Daily News' crime notes, the murder of Emir Peter Greene is big news in the Brickyard.
Everybody knows that Emir and Steve hung out together, and now Emir is dead, shot just blocks from the corner of Ashmead and Wakefield Streets where they peddled drugs.
Within days rumors emerge that Emir was part of a team that stole Steve's safe, which Steve bragged about and was hidden in his house.
Walking the neighborhood, collecting money for Emir's funeral, Aja and her friends see Steve, who knows them and has always said hello. This time, he says nothing. No hello. No "I'm-sorry-to-hear- about-your-brother." This bothers the Greene family and further feeds their suspicions that he shot Emir.
Nerves are running high among loyalists of both Emir and Steve. Rumors reach Steve that if he crosses Germantown Avenue he will be killed, which might explain why Victoria's daughters notice Steve is now wearing a bulletproof vest.
Steve does cross Germantown Avenue, and comes to Victoria's home. As he stands at the door of the Greene home, asking to be let in, one of Victoria's daughters pages Altovise, who, with her boyfriend, also a police officer, rushes over to confront Steve. Still standing on the front steps, Steve pulls out a wad of cash and offers to pay for Emir's funeral. "Whatever you need," he says.
"We don't want your money," Altovise tells him.
Emir's funeral is held April 4 at Ivy Hill Cemetery on Mount Airy Avenue. Victoria likes its chapel because it feels open and peaceful, and not too religious. Family and close friends and people from the neighborhood have come to offer their support. Among the crowd are Steve and his friends, whose presence puts a chill in the Greene family. Police tell them they must remain cool or risk a riot breaking out. Altovise's cop friends, in plainclothes, are among the crowd and keep an eye on everyone. Detectives are in the parking lot gathering license plate numbers on cars suspected of being involved in the shooting.
After the service, Victoria notices an unusual message in the attendance book, which lacks many last names and addresses for obvious reasons. A friend of Emir's named Bird has written, "It went down shady."
Following Emir's funeral, Victoria devotes every minute of her day to figuring out what happened to her son. She has taken a month off from herjob at the prison to grieve, and to gather rumors about her son's death. She logs them in a diary, kept near her bed along with several Polaroid pictures of her son laid out in his coffin.
Victoria cruises the street corners where her son sold drugs, and stares back at dealers. She calls detectives nearly every day with even the slightest bit of information. When the detectives work the late shift, she sets her alarm clock to wake her in the middle of the night so she can call. When she feels embarrassed about calling, she gets her daughters to call instead.
The calls help her to release the pressurethe mounting feeling that no one cares about her son. Detectives Konczyk and Weaver don't mind. They are pros who treat every case the same; they just want to solve it. To them, Victoria is refreshing. Many families they deal with don't get involved. The information Victoria provides offers them crucial leads.
Victoria Green is tougha middle-aged woman who has survived two abusive marriages and raised her children on her own.
But surviving her son's death is proving difficult.
Memories of Emir's life crash over her constantly, causing deep depression one moment and intense anger the next. She thinks about the talent her son displayed in his tap lessons and drawing classes. She thinks about the strikingly realistic portrait Emir once drew of his favorite TV character, Alf. She thinks about Emir's signature that remains on a mural on which he collaborated, located beneath a highway underpass near 2nd and Callowhill Streets.
She thinks about how devastated Emir was at age 12 when he returned from a summer in the South with relatives to find that his mother and his father had separated for good. She thinks about the stories Emir shared with her about his personal life, his girlfriends, his sex life.
She thinks how at her 1995 graduation from Rosemont College, Emir and his cousin Michael slipped away on campus and played Ping-Pong during a few of the speeches.
The rumor that breaks the case is a doozy, and it will lead detectives to the eyeball witness they need.
In the days following the funeral, a woman Debbie Dangerfield tells Victoria's nephew Michael that she knows a man who claims to have been with Steve and Emir on the night of March 26.
Debbie, who has no phone or permanent address, tells Michael that this man saw Steve pull the trigger. She names Ubong Uboh, an African man nicknamed Ju-Ju. He is a low-level drug dealer who hung out with Emir, and who had no permanent home.
Emir and Michael actually befriended Ju-Ju, whom people describe as "a little slow." Emir and Michael fed him and gave him money, and an occasional place to stay. And Michael knows where Ju-Ju is staying. He is crashing with with Michael's brother Darnell, who is living with his girlfriend and her mother.
Ju-Ju is also friends with Steve.
After learning that Ju-Ju might have witnessed the murder, Michael rushes over to Darnell's place and assaults him. Michael is pissed because Ju-Ju had told him earlier that he knew nothing about the murder.
Michael tells Victoria and she calls detectives. She tells them everything about the man named Ju-Ju. Victoria and Altovise then drive Michael, who lives in Jersey, and later Darnell and his girlfriend, to meet the detectives.
"To get it done, we are going to pick you up so you have no excuse," Victoria tells them.
It does not take detectives long to track down Debbie and then Ju-Ju. On April 22, less than a month after the murder, Ju-Ju gives his first statement to police. He admits that he was in a car with Emir and Steve on March 29, but says Steve dropped him off on a street corner before Emir was killed. He tells detectives that he had not seen the murder, but only heard rumors about what had happened.
The detectives don't buy his story completely. They sense he is lying; he knows too much detail about the scene of the crime for a guy who didn't see anything. Ju-Ju is given a polygraph test and fails. In a second interview, he comes clean with the real story:
On the night of the murder, Ju-Ju is in a black Blazer with Steve and Emir. Ju-Ju wants to purchase a "double-up" from Emir, that is, $40 worth of crack cocaine that is later cut to produce a street value of $80. Emir and Steve drive to Ashmead and Wakefield Streets in the Brickyard, leave Ju-Ju in the car and return with the dope.
Around 10 p.m. they are still in the car. Steve is behind the wheel; Emir's riding shotgun; Ju-Ju is in the back seatdirectly behind Emirfingering the bags of dope.
Steve turns right off of E. Penn Street and onto Rubicam Street; his car is now heading the wrong way. Steve and Emir argue, although Ju-Ju cannot hear what is being said because the stereo is too loud. Steve then orders Emir out of the car. As he walks toward the curb, Steve reaches below the seat and grabs a 9 mm semi-automatic gun. He leans across the passenger seat and points the gun out the window. Applying less pressure than it takes to pop the tab on a soda can, he repeatedly pulls the trigger, spraying bullets from left to right as the car moves slowly forward.
Steve then turns to Ju-Ju in the back seat and points the gun at his chest. "I know where you be at. If you say anything, I will kill you," he says.
As Steve drives away, a second car, a burgundy station wagon, pulls up. Someone gets out and fires several more rounds toward Emir, who is likely already dead.
Steve lets Ju-Ju out of the car at Chew Avenue and Montana Street, where he sells his drugs.
The Volunteer Summit feels like a slap in the face. How can you pick up trash when drugs are being sold at dozens of corners in the same neighborhood and friends kill friends in their own backyard?
Ju-Ju is not the perfect witness. He deals drugs and has two open cases of his own, one involving an auto theft and one involving receipt of stolen property. Still, detectives believe his story and try to follow up on the second shooter.
Ju-Ju can provide the evidence the cops need to arrest and hold Steve, who had been arrested by an anxious officer and was later released for lack of evidence.
While Ju-Ju's statement is the first real piece of good news, it does little to lessen the family's level of anger and sense of vulnerability that comes with knowing a family member has been killed in their own backyard.
Since Emir's death, Altovise, who never used to carry her department-issued gun during off-duty hours, is carrying it 24 hours a day. It is hard for Altovise to see Steveand not shoot him.
The family also stops talking to Emir's friends because they don't know who to trust. They cannot tell who is a friend of Steve's, possibly using them for information, or a real friend of Emir's, trying to offer information to help. Victoria feels trapped inside her neighborhood and is particularly disturbed by Steve and his friends, who have started driving slowly by her house.
On April 27, 1997, Victoria's neighborhood receives unprecedented attention from politicians. The city is the backdrop for the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, a campaign to increase volunteer work. Just a few blocks away from her home, on Germantown Avenue, former presidents are grabbing paint rollers and power washers to beautify the area.
But to Victoria, such attention feels like a slap in the face. How can you pick up trash when drugs are being sold at dozens of corners in the same neighborhood and friends kill friends in their own backyard?
Overcome by feelings that politicians do not understand, she decides to make a dramatic statement. Victoria places into an envelope a morgue photo of her dead son, and a letter explaining the drug market in her neighborhood. She takes the envelope and gets in her green Caravan parked in front of her house. She plans to deliver the envelope personally to the President and Mayor Rendell, whom she hopes to find at Marcus Foster Field, not far from her home..
Victoria's children warn her that she will never get close enough. She goes anyway, but arrives too late. The event is over. Later she mails the envelope to the office of Mayor Rendell. His aides pass the letter to police officials, who call Victoria. She keeps them on the phone for hours and they pledge to increase police presence in the area to put pressure on Steve's drug business.
Victoria has more to say and writes her local paper, the Germantown Courier:
My son Emir Greene was murdered. It was reported in the newspaper as an unidentified man found shot to death in the 5200 block of Rubicam Street. This man was my son. I am outraged that three Presidents traveled to Philadelphia to sweep and paint while we live in the shadow of death and violence.
Altovise is also growing more frustrated with the lack of attention her son's murder is getting, not from police, but from the media and politicians. So she too writes a letter, including one to the Germantown Courier:
I look in the newspaper and I read, "Wife is killed; husband spends money on dancer."
I watch the news and I see, "Center City jogger killed, mother devastated."
The sad reality is people are killed everyday. Why are some glorified and others are not?
One horrible, frightening day, I picked up the newspaper and read"Unidentified black male killed." No name, no face, no background, no family. That male was my brother. "
On May 24, a police officer stops a black Camry station wagon driving the wrong way on Ashmead Street. The driver is Steve Holiday. He is arrested and held for the murder of Emir Peter Greene.
A pre-trial hearing is set for June 4 at which time Ju-Ju is supposed to testify before a judge so the case against Steve can be scheduled for a trial. Ju-Ju's testimony will decide if Steve returns to the Brickyard.
But Ju-Ju is a no-show the day of the hearing. Police plan to pick him up before the rescheduled hearing on June 17.
Five days before the second hearing, Ju-Ju offers to help his cousin unload a stolen car, and seeks the help of a man named Mark, a friend of Steve's. Mark promises to arrange a meeting with a man who owns a chop shop.
As Ju-Ju, his cousin and Mark wait in a car for the chop shop contact to show, they are robbed at gunpoint by a man in black sweats and rubber gloves. The man forces Mark out of the car and asks him for money. Then he turns to Ju-Ju, who is sitting in the passenger seat, and to his cousin, who is behind the wheel. The man takes their money, then points his gun at Ju-Ju's chest and fires once. The man tries to pull the trigger three more times, but the gun is jammed. Ju-Ju's cousin starts the car, although the man is reaching over Ju-Ju for the keys. Ju-Ju pops the transmission lever into gear and they escape as the man falls away from the car. Ju-Ju's cousin looks back and sees Mark and the robber collecting the money that was dropped in the street.
Victoria's cousin Michael learns the news first. He calls Victoria, whose family immediately calls the homicide unit. "Ju-Ju's been shot, Ju-Ju's been shot," they say. They demand that someone go to the hospital and get a statement, and protect the only person that can ID Emir's killer. Remarkably, Ju-Ju survives the shooting without a major injury.
The day of the rescheduled hearing Victoria is waiting in court, but she does not see Ju-Ju. She worries until she sees one of the detectives, who mouths the words, "We-got-'em."
Steve's friends are there, too, and glare at Victoria and her family.
Ju-Ju also notices Steve's friend Mark, who had arranged his ill-fated meeting with the chop shop guy and is a suspect in Ju-Ju's shooting.
This boldness scares Victoria and her family. She has a hard time comprehending that drug dealers from her neighborhood can shoot a witness and then come to a courtroom filled with police to intimidate her further.
After Ju-Ju testifies, Mark heads to a pay phone and Ju-Ju tells detectives. They grab Mark, who leaves the receiver dangling below, and take him in for questioning, but they are unable to hold him for Ju-Ju's shooting, or tie him to Emir's shooting.
After the preliminary hearing, Victoria talks to Ju-Ju for a few minutes in a small conference room attached to the courtroom, where she thanks him for testifying.
"I don't know why they did this. Emir always helped me out, he always took care of me. I wanted to do the right thing," Ju-Ju tells Victoria. "I was so scared. They came into the neighborhood looking for me. I couldn't go out. I couldn't sleep. I had nightmares."
They both cry and embrace. She gives him Altovise's pager number and a special code and tells him that if he is in trouble, he can call for help.
Typically, there is almost a year between a pre-preliminary hearing and the trial, a long time for the family of a victim to wait.
This period is becoming one of the toughest times for Victoria and her family. Largely, they worry about the obvious: Will Ju-Ju live long enough to testify?
Also, the family members are struggling with emotional problems as a result of Emir's death. They all feel the same helplessness, the sense that there is nothing they can do.
Vivid flashbacks to the emergency room hit Victoria without warning. Victoria's oldest daughter Chantay, who had her own apartment for years, is forced to move back home after her own business fails. She is too depressed to work. She misses Emir, who was the balance in her family. The middle child and only boy, he always stood in the middle when the family posed for pictures.
The trial comes up more quickly than anyone expected. It is scheduled for December in Judge C. Darnell Jones' courtroom. Victoria feels unprepared, a common feeling among families of murder victims.
The case is handed off to veteran assistant district attorney Richard Sax, whose career in the District Attorney's Office began on December 8, 1990, the day John Lennon was shot.He receives the case on November 18, which allows him about two weeks to review the case file and prepare his argument, a typical and adequate amount of time.
Before Sax begins, he first calls the family to introduce himself, but he will not meet them until the trial begins. In court, he explains to the family the toughest part of the trial will be the medical examiner's testimony, which will detail the fatal injuries Emir received from the gun shots.
The case is simple, Sax tells the jury. Only three people know what happened on March 29, 1997. His witness, Ju-Ju, was one of them, and he witnessed Steven Holiday fire the first shots into Emir Peter Greene. Although the evidence suggests a second shooter fired into Emir after he was on the ground, Emir died as a result of Holiday's gun shots. He also defends Ju-Ju's reluctance to talk to the cops because he was scared for his life. But the jury never learns that Ju-Ju was shot before he testified at the pre-trial hearing.
Then Steve's private attorney, Aaron Finestone, argues that Ju-Ju is not a credible witness, emphasizing how Ju-Ju had changed his story a number of times. He also tries to focus the jury's attention on the unamed second shooter.
The trial lasts about a week. Each day Victoria and her family and friends sit quietly, not far from Steve's mother and her family.
The day the jury reads the verdict, Victoria and her family hold hands, silently praying, worrying that the case could go either way. Victoria and her family burst into tears as the verdict is read: Guilty.
"He only wanted a father," says his sister. "The streets were like his father. There were guys out there that would listen to him and talk to him."
Steven Holiday received a life sentence with no chance for parole. His attorneys have appealed. The second shooter, who fired shots into Emir's downed body, has never been identified. Ju-Ju left Philadelphia days after the trial and has never returned to the city.
Since the verdict, Victoria and her family have been trying to come to terms with Emir's involvement in drugs. How could such a good kid end up selling drugs?
"Our childhood wasn't easy," Altovise says. "Our father was a drug addict, who abused my mother. We all grew up in the same household and we coped. But one of the ways Emir coped was through the streets. He had no close relationship with his father. He met his cousins, who were like brothers, and he sold drugs because they did. He only wanted a father. The streets were like his father. There were guys out there that would listen to him and talk to him."
"He went for the same American dream that I want," says Chantay. "He wanted a nice house, nice car, a good wife, and to be a good husband. Only his occupation was different. It was more dangerous."
The family also spends considerable time helping Emir's girlfriend, Wadeedah, raise Emir's child, a boy named for his dead father. Altovise has started a diary and scrapbook about her brother to someday give to Emir Jr. Also, she mails photos of the baby and letters explaining what happened to his father to baby product companies, which have been sending coupons for diapers and baby food.
Some order and consistency is returning to the lives of the Greene family. Ayanna is in college; Aja is living at home raising her own daughter. Chantay is selling Mary Kay cosmetics with Victoria and living at home. Altovise is planning her wedding.
Victoria continues to work at the prison. She attends frequent meetings with other families of murder victims. She stays in touch with the detectives and Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax.
Recently, Sax was representing the family of another murdered young man from the Germantown area. Learning this, Victoria quietly slipped into the courtroom and passed the victim's mother her phone number. "I know what you are going through," she whispered. "Call me if you want to talk."
Dispatches From The Drug War:
Part 1: Doctor Yes -
The long strange trip toward the arrest of
Dr. Robert Trollinger, alleged drug-dealing doctor.
Part 2: Heroin Highway -
From the badlands to the hinterlands
How Philadelphia became the world's second largest
Part 3: Red Alert -
As the heroin trade spreads beyond Philadelphia,
politicians, cops and community leaders struggle
to contain an epidemic at the source.